I don’t know if comes from the summer trips, staying with my grandparents as a child, where they would take me fishing for catfish and trout — but I love fish. Up at dawn, loading up the truck, securing the aluminum row boat and packing cheese sandwiches. We would sit on the bank of the lake all day, in the summer sun wearing one of grandma’s extra straw hats as she readied us both to cast off. The skin on my bare olive complexioned back growing tawnier with every hour but never burning, leaving tan lines in the shape of the thin spaghetti straps of my swimsuit. These straps, the only thing that once shielded me from a miscast line that should have hooked my shoulder but instead snagged my swimsuit.
Grandma always found a way to sneak a giant Cadbury Fruit and Nut bar into our lunchbox without me seeing it. At some point in the day, as we grew weary and the fish in our catch bucket settled down, she would pull out this treasured treat. Slowly unwrapping the silver foil from around the chocolate and breaking off just a couple of chunks for us to share. Those days were long and lazy, except once we got the catch home and had to clean and scale it, prepping some for dinner and packing the rest for the freezer. Sitting at our TV trays in my grandparents little trailer, munching on fresh-caught, crispy on the outside juicy on the inside, fried catfish and finishing our dinner with a slice of cool, salted watermelon — well, that was the taste of summer to me.
Maybe that’s why I have a tendency to equate seafood with summer. Summer time brings lobster roll sandwiches, shrimp tacos and scampi, crab cakes on a bed of spinach, salmon baked on a wood plank with caramelized onions, orange and sweet basil, seared halibut topped with zucchini, tomatoes and mushrooms, and mussles cooked in butter and wine with spinach and bacon. I love seafood — everything from tender meaty fish like salmon and halibut to rich crustaceans like shrimp, lobster and crabs, to the tender tug of shellfish mussels, clams and oysters and the delicate chew of perfectly cooked squid and octopus. As a general rule, if it’s from the sea — it’s for me!
But one thing I’ve never cooked before is shrimp stew. Now, thanks to Emeril and his Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders we all can make this richly satisfying and belly warming stew this fall — because he not only gave us the recipe to preview here but also included his recipe for shrimp stock.
This comforting, simple stew is a Cajun dish that many home cooks in Louisiana enjoy, especially during the Lenten season. It is easy to make and feeds a bunch. The trick is getting the roux to the right color . . . about a notch darker than peanut butter should do the trick. A homemade shrimp stock makes all the difference in the world. Make sure to add the shrimp just before serving so that they stay nice and tender. Some families boil eggs in their shrimp stew (as it simmers) to make the dish even heartier.
1 cup vegetable oil
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ½ cups finely chopped onion
¼ cup minced garlic (about 12 cloves)
10 cups Rich Shrimp Stock (see below)
2 bay leaves
1 ¼ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt
3 large baking potatoes (2 ½ to 3 pounds), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ cup chopped green onion, green part only
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Steamed long-grain white rice, for serving
1. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the flour. Whisk to combine and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until a medium roux is formed (it should look a bit darker than peanut butter), about 10 minutes. (If the roux begins to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and take your time—it is important that the roux not be burned at all or the stew will have a bitter taste.) As soon as the roux is the right color, add the chopped onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, little by little, and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Add the bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, and 4 teaspoons of the salt and reduce the heat so that the sauce just simmers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the floury taste is gone, 30 to 45 minutes.
2. Add the potatoes and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender and the sauce is thick and flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes longer. (Add a bit of water or chicken broth to thin the gravy should the stew get too thick during the cook time. The sauce is meant to be thick and rich but not pasty.)
3. Toss the shrimp with the remaining ½ teaspoon salt. Stir the shrimp, green onion, and parsley into the stew and continue to cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the bay leaves. Serve the stew in shallow bowls over hot white rice.
6 to 8 servings
Emeril’s Rich Shrimp Stock
This stock is so easy to make, yet so flavorful—make a batch every time you have shells and heads from fresh shrimp and you’ll never have to worry about where to get shrimp stock again. You’ll find that toasting the shells in oil before adding the water gives added depth to this stock, which can be used in countless ways.
1 to 1 ½ pounds shrimp shells and heads
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
14 cups water
1 large onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped (the onion peel deepens the color of the stock)
½ cup roughly chopped celery
2 small carrots, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large sprigs fresh parsley
1. Rinse the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander under cold running water and allow to drain.
2. In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells are pink and toasty-fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes.
Add the water and all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that comes to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook at a slow simmer until the stock is flavorful, 45 to 60 minutes.
3. Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl and allow it to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days before using. (The stock may also be placed in airtight containers and frozen for up to several months.)
About 12 cups
Note: You can easily double the ingredient amounts to make a larger batch of stock.
To save space in the freezer, you can reduce the stock further after straining and discarding the solids. Just add water to the defrosted stock to reconstitute as needed.
- Gulf Shrimp Jambalaya (cookingwithkatie.wordpress.com)
- Emeril Lagasse’s one-pot wonders: Meals made grand by their ingredients (pbpulse.com)