A Belated Cajun Christmas Pt. 2

A new year calls for a resolution and mine is never to begin a series of holiday posts less than a month before the holiday itself. I had every intention to follow up my gumbo post right away rather than leave you hanging. Of course, in my head I enjoy imagining some new reader who hasn't noticed my unreliability and made the decision to prepare a Cajun Christmas meal, having made the gumbo, desperately clicking "refresh" on Christmas Eve, hoping, no, praying that I would update the blog. Man, that daydream always appeals to my maniacal side. What, you didn't know about my maniacal side? It's true. Freya and I have a running joke about it. Megalomania owning the controlling share of a greater sociopathy. The joke is actual about ironic justice and takes a form such as, "Megalomaniac chokes to death on Walnut Whip whilst boasting of own omnipotence and immortality." (Based on actual events)

Well, if I haven't turned you off with my self-serving opening paragraph then you must either be family, friends, somebody I've promised a bribe, or really interested in Cajun food. You're in luck (unless it's the bribe you're after(the cheque's in the post)) because I made two more dishes just last night. The first being a delicious Jambalaya tasty enough to elicit a series of expletives from my boss who had the leftovers for lunch today and the second being a decent Shrimp Creole served over the worst bit of blackened shark I have ever eaten.

If you've been reading the posts this week you will have noticed fish emerging as a new hot favourite. Freya had a powerful craving for some seafood over the weekend so we stocked up on a variety of fish. In our house fish is either used right away or stored in the freezer and forgotten. As the freezer is completely full the second option wasn't available. So it was up to me to use the fish left over from Sunday to cook Monday night supper. Insightful readers may also recall that Kathryn from Kathryn Cooks With Jamie had commented on reduced okra at Tescos. Sure enough, along with reduced squid there were two bags of okra. Reduced seafood, reduced okra, it was some kind of portent! In fact, every ingredient I needed was either on hand at home or on sale at Tesco. I had promised Kathryn that I would include my recipe for Shrimp Creole in a Cajun post so that was definitely on the menu. I wanted to serve it over a blackened fish and the choices in the freezer in ascending order of age and descending freezer strata were shark, swordfish, and red snapper. Unfortunately I chose the shark.

I have had shark before, but not for a few years. I chose this over the other options because it has a taste and texture similar to catfish, which is delicious, but impossible to find in Essex. I began cutting it into 2 inch cubes for frying when I noticed a familiar smell. It was definitely hair dye. Bad memories of younger days, running out of gas in rural Nebraska at 2AM, stuck in a rest area lobby with blue hair and a lot of redneck truckers came flooding back. I wasn't imagining it though. I've never had reason to know previously, but apparently shark meat is often bleached with hydrogen peroxide! I ate as much as I could, but it was impossible to ignore and that's how one ingredient from last nights supper ended up in the bin. At £8.87 it was also more money than the rest of the ingredients combined. In future I'll stick with a nice tuna steak.

If you're making the Jambalaya and Shrimp Creole at the same time you can save yourself some trouble by chopping up the vegetables for both dishes at once.

JAMBALAYA
Ingredients:
50ml olive oil
1 clove garlic finely diced
2 peppers chopped
1 onion chopped
100g okra, sliced into 1cm pieces
2-3 chilies finely diced (removing seeds is for wimps and OAPs, well, wimpy OAPs)
250g crayfish and/or peeled prawns (if using prawns with shells, reserve the shells to make stock for Shrimp Creole)
200g cubed chorizo sausage
500g chicken or a mixture of seafood (we used monkfish and mussels(left over from Sunday))
2 cups easy-cook American rice
3.5 cups chicken or fish stock
2 tbsp Cajun spice
2 tbsp turmeric
2 tbsp pepper sauce
salt to taste

METHOD
1. Simmer the oil, onions, garlic, chorizo, chilies, and peppers in a pan until onions are soft and translucent.
2. Add okra and chicken and cook for about five minutes
3. Stir in rice and all seasonings until rice is thoroughly coated in oil.
4. Add stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, lid on for 15 minutes.
5. Add crayfish or prawns and simmer for an additional 20 minutes.

SHRIMP CREOLE
Ingredients:
4 tbsp oil
2 tbsp flour
1 large onion diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
3 stalks celery diced
1.5 peppers diced
4 ripe tomatoes chopped
4 spring onions sliced
1 cup seafood stock
500g peeled shrimp
small bunch chopped fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp hot pepper sauce
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste
METHOD
1. Whisk together oil and flour in a heavy bottomed pan until a light roux is formed
2. Add onions, celery, and peppers. Sauté for about 20 minutes.
3. Add tomatoes, bay leaves, hot sauce, and garlic. Simmer on low for 20 minutes.
4. Pour in stock, parsley, spring onions, sugar, and salt. Cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add shrimp and cook for 5 minutes.
6. Serve over rice, chicken, or fish.

PAUL'S CAJUN SEASONING
Ingredients:
2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp white pepper
1 tsp cayenne pepper
2 tsp thyme
1 tbsp garlic powder (not salt!)

I made this recipe up years ago and usually mix it up in big batches. It's great on fish, steak, or especially chicken (barbequed and served on a flour tortilla(Freya's favourite). Add it to anything you want; it's very nicely balanced.

To make this into a BLACKENED seasoning for fish you can add 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp sugar. Not completely authentic, but really good.

BLACKENED FISH METHOD
Put about 25g butter and 25g oil in a pan. Heat until butter is melted. Roll fish in the pan adding seasoning to all sides. Cook over medium heat until just cooked.

7 comments:

Kathryn said...

Paul - the jambalaya looks wonderful and the shrimp creole sounds wonderful too! I need to get into Cajun food, beyond the burnt allegedly 'blackened chicken' I was once served in Old Orleans. I've never cooked shark though. Could I use cod/haddock/hake? (my freezer being a bit full of them..)

I am definitely interested in this Cajun theme; I love the idea of chorizo and seafood, and as you know I like okra. Mmm.

A nosy question now:) - did food bring you two together? You're a formidable foodie duo!!

Oh and Sarah - I'm with you on the chocolate after dinner thing. Sadly I love seafood and fish so I'm not with you on that....

Predictably I now crave Cajun food, but it is time for me to go to bed!!!

Kathryn x

Writing At The Kitchen Table said...

Kathryn,
Any of those would be nice as blackened fish, although you may have to fry them at a higher temperature to sear them without the fish breaking up. You should make some Cajun recipes because the food is great, probably my second favourite. If you do experiment with shark, get a cheap piece 'cause I feel really cheated.

As for your question, no. If anything, food is pushing us apart, at least in the middle. Freya can barely get her arms around me now. We actually got together because of a shared love of punk rock, horror movies, and subversive literature.

If it were up to Sarah, there would be no chocolate left for you, Kathryn!

We're still interested in a food swap, by the way.

-Paul

Kathryn said...

I don't do punk rock or horror but I love literature, the more subversive the better. Mainly French just cos that's what I do for a living..

What kind of food swap do you have in mind?

Kathryn

Sarah said...

Alright, you guys are making me look bad! :o) Yes, I love chocolate, but I can go without when necessary. I guess I've gotten used to having a cup of coffee or a little bit of chocolate after a meal. That's not an insult to the meal, however!

Freya, the corn pudding and flapjacks look wonderful!!! I hope you're doing well! I'm still home sick today...yucky.

love,
sarah

P.S.-I saw Fer contacted you!

Writing At The Kitchen Table said...

Hi Sarah!
You're famous now for your chocolate addiction! The whole world knows about it!
Hope you feel better soon though! Everyone at work as been ill and I feel like I've been dodging sickness all week. Must be the time of year!
Love, Freya and Paul

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