While I am slowly finishing up the next album, I thought I’d share some of my Cajun recipes. First let’s get down to the basics: Shrimp stock.
Shrimp stock is one of the easiest Cajun foods you can possibly make. There is no set recipe, every one comes out different, and you can freeze it forever.
Here’s how I make mine.
I buy fresh shrimp regularly from the Crescent City Farmer’s Market. After peeling the shrimp, I rinse the heads and tails under cold water then put them in a large plastic bag in the freezer. I save the shells from every batch in this bag until I have shells from about 3 lbs. of shrimp.
In another bag I freeze scraps from onions, green onions, celery, bell peppers and mushrooms (save the stems).
When it’s stock time, put the scraps and shells into a big pot, fill it to the top with water, bring to a boil then simmer for an hour. Add a few crushed garlic cloves and half-a squeezed lemon with rind. Make sure you can see the stock boiling a little, and add a more water if it goes down too much.
My typical pot has shells from 3lbs. of shrimp and scraps from two or three of each veggie, plus a handful of mushroom stems. Try adding in an orange, more lemon, some lemongrass or bay leaves.
After an hour, turn off the heat and let cool. (**It is important to let the stock cool almost completely, or else the steam will pop open the freezer bags in the next step.) Strain well into another big pot or bowl with a fine mesh strainer, discarding the used shells and veggies.
Next measure the stock into freezer bags. I use bags in a few sizes. I put three cups into a quart size. Then I put one cup into a smaller snack size. This size is really easy to use and makes a great gift for neighbors.
Fill the bags in the sink in case of any spills. Push as much air out of the bags as you can, then double check for leaks. Layer the bags in a large tray, in case of leaks, then put the tray in the freezer.
I use shrimp stock anywhere a Cajun recipe calls for water or other types of stock—ratatouille, courtboullion, gumbo, rice, shrimp and corn soup—and I also used it in black beans, grits, seafood tom ka gai, and anywhere else I can imagine.
A note on shrimp stock and seafood gumbo
If I am making a seafood gumbo, I make 3/4 of a pot of stock, and instead of freezing it I use it immediately in the gumbo. It gives the gumbo that rich flavor everyone loves.
Ooh, ca c’est bon!