Monday, March 7, 2011

Party on Mardi with this Seafood Creole

Seafood creole with rice by Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books
Devotees of party schedules know that Tuesday is Mardi Gras, the big blow-out before the six weeks of Lent leading up to Easter Sunday. We can't all be in New Orleans or any of the Gulf coast towns that celebrate Mardi Gras, but we can bring a little of Louisiana creole into our kitchens. For about 20 years, I've made seafood creole, a great quantity of crowd-pleasing goodness meant to warm body and soul.

The keys to good creole are quality Gulf Coast seafood and the roux, the butter and flour mixture that flavors and thickens the stew. Taking your time to cook the roux to a deep, dark brown is crucial, and it's really not that much time. The butter and flour are chocolate brown in under 20 minutes.

Give this recipe a try the next time you need to serve a crowd. With a salad and bread on the side, it's Southern comfort in a bowl.

Seafood Creole

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 large onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

3 ribs celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

½ cup white wine

2 cans (1 lb. each) whole tomatoes

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon paprika

1 bay leaf

½ teaspoon dried thyme or 1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme

½ teaspoon hot sauce (optional, season to taste)

¼ teaspoon Creole seasoning (Tony Chachere)

2 pounds of a combination of mild fish such as flounder; peeled, deveined shrimp; and bay scallops

Hot, steamed rice for serving

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, melt butter until foaming. Stir in flour and cook over medium heat until dark brown, about 20 minutes. The smell will be like nearly burnt buttered popcorn and the color will be like Hershey’s milk chocolate.

A dark chocolate roux. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books

2. Remove pot from heat and add onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, wine, tomatoes with liquid, salt, black pepper, paprika, bay leaf and thyme. Stir well. Cover and simmer for at least 10 minutes. Remove cover and continue simmering until vegetables have reached the desired degree of tenderness. You may add the seafood now and serve, or keep cooking the base, either on the stovetop, or covered in the oven at 300. (Check frequently to make sure the liquid level doesn’t get too low.)

The holy trinity of creole cooking: pepper, celery, onion. Lucy Mercer/A Cook and Her Books.

3. Season to taste with creole seasoning and hot sauce as desired. Remove bay leaf. Add seafood last and simmer three to five minutes or until seafood just appears done. Remember that the seafood will continue to cook from the residual heat of the stew. Serve over a bed of hot steamed rice.

Text and images copyright 2011, Lucy Mercer.

1 comment:

Patti Ruffner said...

I can't wait to try this creole! I have made many Gumbos in my time but I stopped eating any pork products about 4 years ago and that includes using bacon drippings, which is what I use to make my roux from. I still use real butter though! If I gave that up I might as well not even cook! lol

Thank you for all your great recipes! :D