Fall has arrived and that signals warm + cozy one-pot meals perfect for Sunday supper or a crowd of rowdy football fans. One of my favorites is JOHN BESH’S SHRIMP CREOLE with a Vietnamese influence and updated with fresh herbs and unique spices. A family friend, I asked Chef Besh if I could share his recipe because it’s super-easy, super-tasty and you’ve just got to try it.
Editor’s Note: This recipe serves a crowd of 12-15 people, but you can easily halve the ingredients for a family of four and have yummy leftovers the next day. It also calls for specific named ingredients, like Louisiana shrimp or Brandywine heirloom tomatoes, but if you can’t find them, use the best available substitute. Lemongrass is often available in grocery stores, but can also be found at Asian and Mexican markets.
5 lbs. jumbo Louisiana or wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbsp. minced fresh lemongrass
½ cup olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
10 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bell pepper, green, red, or yellow, seeded and diced
5 lbs. overripe Brandywine or other heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 bay leaf
¼ tsp. ground allspice
1 Tbsp. crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 2 branches fresh basil, chopped
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
Sugar to taste
6-8 cups cooked Louisiana White Rice
For the shrimp:
Put the shrimp into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then mix in the lemongrass. Heat ¼ cup of the oil in a large deep skillet over moderate heat. Add the shrimp, stirring and tossing them with a spatula. Sauté until the shrimp turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside while you make the sauce.
For the sauce:
Into the same skillet with the oil and shrimp juices, put the remaining ¼ cup oil and the onions, garlic, celery, and bell peppers and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, for about 2 minutes.
Add the tomatoes. Reduce the heat to medium-low and when the sauce comes to a simmer add the bay leaf, allspice, and red pepper flakes. Simmer for 10 minutes.
For the pièce de résistance:
Add the shrimp back to the skillet along with the basil and mint. Cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tart, add a little sugar to balance the flavor. Remove the bay leaf. Serve over steamed Louisiana white rice.
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