Shrimp and Broccoli Stir Fry

I don’t like to peel raw shrimp. For me, peeling and deveining shrimp ranks above eating a pomegranate, but not by much. That’s why I use peeled cooked shrimp in my recipes. Purists and gourmets will object, and I am sure that they are right, but I don’t like to peel shrimp. Taking off the tails of cooked shrimp is enough work. and people keep asking for seconds, so the things I make must taste pretty good anyway.

Maybe one reason people are cooking a bit less often today is that more people than we realize share my distaste for peeling shrimp. I complained every time I had to peel shrimp for a dish I love, Shrimp Etouffée, LINK until one day I substituted frozen cooked shrimp which I decided produced the same wonderful flavor of the original and saved me a half hour’s tedious labor. I hope that this confession encourage others to make some shrimp dishes that they have been avoiding.

I put this recipe together to make it as quick and easy to make as possible. You don’t need to mince the garlic or ginger or cook the shrimp ahead of time. You just stir the sauce ingredients together, wash and chop the broccoli and onion into pieces and pull the tails off the shrimp. Of course you have to cook the rice, but that takes about two minutes of actual preparation time. While the rice is simmering in the covered pan you are making the stir fry.

You will end up with a delicious dinner low in fat, calories and carbohydrates in half an hour.

INGREDIENTS:

2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T oyster sauce
2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
2 T water
1/2 tsp. instant chicken bouillon
1/4 tsp. powdered garlic
1/2 tsp. powdered ginger
2 tsp. light brown sugar
1/2 tsp. toasted sesame oil
1/8 tsp. chili pepper flakes (optional)
1 tsp. cornstarch
1 T vegetable oil
3 cups broccoli florets
1 small onion (about 2 inches in diameter)
12 oz. cooked medium shrimp
1 scallion (optional)
Dash of salt (optional, to taste)
1 cup white rice
2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt

PROCEDURE:

Make the sauce first. Combine the soy sauce, oyster sauce, garlic, ginger, vinegar, water, bouillon, brown sugar, sesame oil, pepper flakes (if you wish) and cornstarch. Whisk everything together and set the sauce aside.

Thaw the shrimp if necessary, remove the tails and set the shrimp aside in a bowl. Clean and chop a scallion into thin rings if you wish and set them aside in a small bowl. Wash the broccoli and separate three cups of florets. Cut the stem and root ends from the onion, remove the dry outer layers and slice it vertically. The safest way to do this is to cut the onion in half lengthwise, then cut each half into thin strips lengthwise.

Rinse the rice and bring two cups of water and the salt to a boil in a one quart pan with a tight-fitting lid. Stir in the rice and bring the pan back to a boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer, put the lid on and allow the rice to cook until the water is all absorbed. Do not remove the lid for the first fifteen minutes. Turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

Once the rice is cooking, put a tablespoon of oil into a wok or large skillet over moderate heat. Stir the broccoli and onion into the oil and cook for about two minutes, then add the shrimp and continue cooking and stirring another two minutes. Pour the sauce over the shrimp and vegetables and stir until the sauce thickens and everything is warm.

Serve over the rice and garnish with the scallion rings if you wish. Freshly baked bread goes well with this dish.

NOTES: Some time ago I read an article about how chefs use parts of vegetables that a lot of people throw away. One example is the thick stems of broccoli. I now trim the cut ends of the broccoli heads from the store and chop the stems into pieces that will cook along with the florets.

Shrimp Étouffée

Shrimp Étouffée

I was introduced to Creole cooking on my first visit to New Orleans many years ago. I ate barbecue shrimp, jambalya, gumbo and shrimp étouffée. The only dish with which I was vaguely familiar was jambalaya, and that was because of the Hank Williams hit song, “On the Bayou.” The food was so good that I bought a cookbook of Creole cuisine, La Bouche Creole, by Leon E. Soniat, Jr.

The title literally means “The Creole Mouth.” It’s a fun book to read filled with Soniat’s accounts of how Mamere (his grandmother) and Mamete (his mother) prepared many of the recipes. La Bouche Creole has been in print for over thirty years. You should get a copy if you want to enjoy authentic Creole cuisine. Meanwhile, here is a modified version of one of my favorite recipes from Soniat’s collection, shrimp étouffée.

Étouffée means “smothered” so shrimp étouffée is shrimp smothered in a thick sauce. It resembles shrimp creole like my mother used to make, but shrimp étouffée has a more complex flavor that I think you will find both intriguing and delicious. The secret is the beef broth and brown roux. It takes a little longer to make shrimp étouffée than shrimp creole, but that roux creates a rich sauce that is heavenly.

Soniat calls for three pounds of shrimp, and that is what I used the first time I made the dish. Shrimp are expensive, however, and I now use about two pounds, half small and half large.

INGREDIENTS:

3 T butter
3 T vegetable oil
6 T all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped onions
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
4 or 5 cloves garlic
1 6 oz can tomato paste
3 cups beef broth
2 cups water
3 bay leaves
1 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt
2- 3 lbs. peeled shrimp
1 cup chopped shallots
2 T chopped parsley

PROCEDURE:

First make a roux. Heat three tablespoons each of butter and vegetable oil over low heat in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add six tablespoons flour and use a wooden spoon to stir it frequently until the flour is medium brown, almost to the color of milk chocolate. It will take about twenty minutes to do this right.

Pay close attention to the flour so it does not burn. Prepare the vegetables while the roux is cooking. Clean and chop the onion, bell pepper and celery into a quarter to half-inch dice. Clean and mince the garlic.

When the roux is brown, add the vegetables followed by the tomato paste, beef broth and water. Raise the heat and bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat. While the vegetables simmer, add the bay leaves and stir in the basil, thyme, chili powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt. Clean and chop the shallots into a quarter-inch dice and finely chop the parsley.

Peel and devein the shrimp if necessary, or thaw frozen shrimp and remove the tails.

After the vegetables have simmered about forty-five minutes, add the shallots and parsley. Simmer for another ten minutes, then add the shrimp and bring the pot back to a simmer. If you are using raw shrimp, allow the pot to simmer about seven or eight minutes, then turn off the heat. With precooked shrimp, turn the heat off as soon as the pot begins to simmer.

Cover the pot and let it stand on the back of the stove for an hour or so to blend the flavors. Reheat just to a simmer before serving.

Serve the étouffée over white rice with a green salad and crusty bread.

NOTES: Soniat calls for raw shrimp, which you need to peel before cooking. Not having any raw shrimp in the house one Sunday morning, I tried two packages of frozen cooked shrimp. I thawed them, removed the tails, and added them to the pot as the final ingredient. The dish was still delicious, and I have stopped peeling shrimp.

One cup of uncooked rice will produce about three cups of cooked rice, so if you start with one and one-half cups of uncooked rice, you will end up with six to eight servings to smother with shrimp étouffée.