Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Creole Shrimp Jambalaya

   Because I grew up as a devout Catholic Cajun country boy, I often wondered about how not eating any meat on Friday was a 'sacrifice'. The reason I felt that way was because down here in South Louisiana we live in a bountiful water-filled area, so we'd have the most wonderful seafood dishes on Fridays. I wondered, "how in the world could that be a penance?" and actually felt kinda guilty looking forward to Friday night fish fries and such. Weren't we supposed to feel deprived? 
  Well, over the years I kinda let the tradition slide and only "sacrificed" by having seafood during Lent on Fridays, and here lately, I haven't even been following that, strictly.  Shame on me, I guess.
   Now, on the Fridays when I do think of it, it's a wonderful excuse to drag out the ol' black iron pot and cook up something delicious. This time it was a shrimp jambalaya like Mama usta make.
She'd start with some rough chopped onions and since it was Friday, she couldn't use bacon drippin's or lard, she'd use veggie oil and Cajun seasoning.  She'd dump that in a pot 
and stir it down 'til the onions softened up nicely.
Then she'd add some diced tomatoes.  Mama would add equal amounts of Rotel's Original diced tomatoes and a can of plain, un-spiced regular diced tomatoes, plua a can of drained
mushrooms.  Peggy and I like our food extra spicy, so we add more Rotel than regular tomatoes. You might want to add less or more; the fun is finding out how ya like it by cooking it yourself a few times.
Once it's all in the pot, you want to 'cook it down' by stirring and watchin' it like a hawk 'til you cook all the moisture out the pot and lightly browning the tomatoes a little.
When it's at that stage, add the seafood.  In this case we used a couple of pounds of Louisiana Gulf shrimp from a local store and some smoked garfish that our friend Sam gave us, for a nice smokey flavor, since no meat sausage was allowed on Friday.  The smoked fish was Mama's favorite trick to get that good smokey flavor in her gravies on Fridays.
Now, once the fish and shrimp were added to my pot,
I added enough water to make the jambalaya, some diced bell pepper and green onions from our garden, and brought that all up to a soft boil.  My 'secret' ingredients are a big squirt of ketchup and a couple spoonfuls of Steen's cane syrup.   The ketchup brings the color back to a flavorful, pretty orange color and the syrup cuts the sharp acid of the tomatoes. 
Once it was boiling good, I added what I thought was the right amount of uncooked rice and continued boiling and stirring it often for five minutes. After five minutes, I covered it tightly and parked it in a 250 degree oven for 45 minutes.  And DON'T ever lift the lid after that to see how it's doin'.
When it comes out of the oven it looks like this:
At that point I took my spoon and, lifting from the bottom, fluffed it up good.
Like when I was a kid, I still don't see how having this Creole Shrimp Jambalaya for a Friday night supper is any kind of penance, but it sure is a wonderful Cajun tradition that I enjoy making.
I really hope you enjoy trying your hand at making this amazing dish and drop us a note letting us know how yours turned out. If you have any questions, let us know, too. If you find yourself enjoying this when it's not during Lent Season or on Fridays, you'll have nothing to be ashamed of. 
Bon Appetit!! 

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