So who's Anna Brown? Anna is my late mother-in-law. The Brown is a nod to Alton Brown of the Food Network's Good Eats program.
I love shrimp Creole, gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, dirty rice and other staples of Louisiana cuisine. I don't love slaving over a hot stove trying to make a roux. The first time I tried my hand at gumbo, I burned the roux. A more seasoned cook would have known to throw it out and start over, but I thought the other ingredients would mask the burnt taste, so I doggedly kept on. Suffice it to say, it was awful. Even the shrimp were unpalatable, having cooked in eau de burnt flour. I wound up throwing out a very expensive meal and learned a valuable lesson: You want Creole or Cajun, go to a restaurant.
The second time I tried making a roux, I managed not to burn it, but it took darn near forever to achieve that dark caramel color. I was hot, cranky, aching from hunching over the stove, and was sporting some splatter burns on my hands and forearms from stirring the roux a little too vigorously; they don't call it Cajun napalm for nothing. I learned another valuable lesson: You want Creole or Cajun, go to a restaurant.
Then one afternoon, I was channel surfing and ran across a Good Eats episode wherein Alton Brown, in his scientifically foody way, was making gumbo. What riveted my attention was that Alton baked the roux. He whisked the oil and flour together in a Dutch oven, and then threw the whole mess into a pre-heated oven for 90 minutes. I had never heard of such a thing and was thusly, to coin an Alton-ism, immediately skeptical. No way could it be that easy. Still, I was intrigued enough to Google the recipe from the Food Network website, print it, and stick it in my recipe binder, where it sat until I was sufficiently motivated to try it.
This recipe, therefore, combines Alton's baked roux with my MIL's version of shrimp Creole. If, like me, you've made roux the old-fashioned way and are fed up with the constant stirring and bullets of hot floury grease, give this a try. I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how painless, figuratively and literally, making a roux can be. This is because oven heat is much gentler than the close, direct, in-your-face heat of the stove coils. Of course, there are those purists who will insist that no roux can truly be called a roux if you haven't given up a significant portion of your day making it. To each his own.
ANNA BROWN'S SHRIMP CREOLE
Feeds a crowd. Make the sauce a day ahead to give it time to season. Just before serving, heat it on the stove, add the shrimp, and cook through. If it's a little too thick, you can thin it with additional chicken broth.
2/3 C vegetable oil
2/3 C all-purpose flour
1 C chopped yellow onions
1 C chopped green onions (white and light green parts)
1 C chopped celery
1 C chopped green pepper
2 - 3 cloves garlic, minced
3 - 14 1/2 cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 - 8 oz can tomato sauce
1 - 6 oz can tomato paste
1 - 14 oz can chicken broth
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne (add more for a kick)
2 - 3 bay leaves
1 TB lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire
1 tsp hot sauce
3 1/2 lbs of 21 - 25 ct raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
Hot cooked rice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Make your roux. In a Dutch oven, whisk the veggie oil and flour together until smooth. Bake uncovered for 1 1/2 hours, stirring 2 or 3 times. While the roux bakes, chop your veggies, clean your shrimp, and prepare your other ingredients. You can actually multi-task while making a roux! Who'd a thunk it? My husband commented that the baking roux smelled like a roasting Thanksgiving turkey. It did, weirdly.
Place the Dutch oven on your stove and VERY CAREFULLY so you don't get splashed, add the holy trinity of Creole cuisine: your chopped pepper, onions and celery. Stir in your minced garlic.
Let your veggies and garlic cook for 15 minutes over medium low heat, stirring occasionally. Take care that your roux doesn't burn at this stage.
Add the remaining ingredients except the shrimp and rice. Bring to a boil, cover tightly, lower heat and simmer for an hour, stirring every now and then.
"I am not
a glutton; I am an explorer of food." How I miss Erma Bombeck!