This is one of those dishes that can always comfort me after a hard day. It is probably one of the most simple and pure of all the Cajun dishes and for some reason often ignored.
I don’t tend to get personal in the blog. Well... or in life. I am one of those if I just put it over here and avert my eyes maybe it will just go away people - (it's an incredible way to make sure your anxiety and stress level stays pretty damn high.) Recently, my little family had a rough week. To get a small understanding dealing with my Ex - it is like having someone break your toe every 6 weeks. Just when you think it's healed, there it is, that sharp pain followed by an annoying, throbbing, ache and there really is no way to fix it. You just have to grin and bear it. Worst part - you know you can’t stop it. For the sake of your children you just stick your foot out, close your eyes and hope it will be a little gentler this time.
Since the idea of sitting with my own thoughts is my personal nightmare - y’all... I should never tell anyone the stuff that runs through my head. I think they would commit me. I can look at a beautiful flower and go from “Wow, mother nature is amazing” to “What if someone else smelled this flower and they had some sort of communicable disease and now I have it and unknowingly spread it to everyone I know, have I just made myself patient zero?” Yeah, there is a little glimpse into what goes on up there. Don’t worry I keep 99% to myself, it's the only way I can keep my friends coming around. Instead of torturing myself and my loved ones, I go full throttle into busy distractions. One includes cooking for large groups of people. Since it was a rough week I knew Shrimp Stew was in order. I am not sure why this dish is so healing. Maybe it's because of its beautiful simplicity, or maybe it's because so many of us remember sitting at out Maw-Maw's kitchen table watching her make it, or maybe it's that smell - the smell that brings back childhood memories as soon as you open the door. No matter the reason, it is truly one of the few dishes that when a friend comes over after a rough day I can see the stress and worries lift away after a few bites.
Everyone has a version of this. Some have potatoes some don’t. Some people are all fancy and put chopped eggs on top, not me though. Here's how I think it should be made.
Fresh shell and head on shrimp is a must if you can get them. Making your own seafood stock makes a huge difference. To dirty fewer dishes and have less of a mess I fill a stock pot with water and add my veggie scraps and peel my shrimp right over the pot. Throw the shells in the pot as you go and have a little bowl on the side for the shrimp tails. I know I have said this before but it bears repeating, do not simmer your seafood stock too long. A common mistake is to want to simmer it as long as beef or chicken stock - resist the urge. Hey if I manage to not cause physical harm to my Ex you can do this.
While the stock cooks, I make my roux. A darker roux is what I prefer. Some people cook till it's a peanut butter color, I like to cook it till it's more of a deep chocolate brown. Making a roux can be stressful until it becomes second nature. Some people like to make a roux real low and slow - it takes longer but it's safe. I have a penchant for using medium-high heat. Now to do this you can't stop stirring for a second or you will burn your roux and have to start again. Much like my first marriage, a burnt roux cannot be saved. After your roux is done add your veggies and cook just till they are wilted then turn off the heat.
Strain your stock and put it back on the stove and bring to a gentle boil. If you ever have a chance to get a stock pot that comes with a removable strainer, get it! I love mine. It possibly is my most used pot other than my cast-iron. Mine is made by All-Clad if you want to look into it. Once your stock is boiling add the roux by spoonfuls and stir until dissolved. Repeat this till all the roux has been used. Bring the pot to a simmer. Let it simmer until thickened, about 1 1/2 hours. Check on it occasionally to make sure it hasn't thickened too much. No worries if it does just add some residual stock or water.
On to the eggs. I like to put mine directly in the pot and boil for about 10 minutes then remove and chill till I can peel them and set them aside. This can be done at any point in the process. Some people boil the eggs separately. it's completely up to you.
Once the eggs are done, add the shrimp and eggs back in and cook until the shrimp just turn pink. This only takes about 5 minutes. Not overcooking the shrimp is important. Overcooked shrimp aren't the most terrible thing but they are highly disappointing. We serve this dish, like everything else we make, with rice. I usually start my rice after the stock has been on for about an hour. I like to serve Shrimp Stew with a sprinkling of green onions and a side of potato salad (maybe one day I will share my potato salad recipe, it is one of my most guarded recipes.)
2lbs medium shrimp, shells, and heads on
4 whole boiled eggs
8 cups water
Scraps from the onion, bell pepper, and celery
2 bay leaves
1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
1⁄2 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1⁄2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1⁄2 cup chopped celery
1/2 to 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning (I love salty and spicy so I go all in but you may want to start with 1/2 and add a little at a time till it reaches your taste preferences)
4 tablespoons of chopped green onions for garnish
*serve with white rice (or brown if you make healthier choices than me)
1. Put the water and scraps in a stockpot
2. Peel the shrimp and put the shells and heads in the stockpot.
3. Refrigerate the shrimp and put the shells and heads in a stockpot
4. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
5. While the stock heats heat up the oil over medium heat once oil is heated add flour.
6. Continuously stir the roux till it's between a peanut butter and dark chocolate color (your preference, my preferred stirring tool is a whisk)
7. Add your veggies and cook stirring often till wilted. Turn off heat
8. When the stock is done strain and bring 6 cups to a gentle boil
9. One the stock is boiling add your Roux by spoonfuls and stir after each addition till completely dissolved.
10. Add Cajun seasoning and salt.
11. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 1 1/2 hours.
12. Once the stew is done and has thickened add the shrimp and boiled eggs. Cook for 5-10 minutes till shrimp are just cooked.
13. Taste for seasoning, a lot of times I add a little more salt and black pepper.
Note: The stew is usually served over white rice.