Let the good times roux

I’ve cranked up Beausoleil and the Wild Magnolias while I’m working instead of my usual cool jazz – it’s Mardi Gras! (Working on a Cajun fiddle tune…someday…) You can hit a Mardi Gras party, sure. But if you make your own party, no worries about getting home with purple glitter all over yourself and people asking questions.

Most people think of jambalaya and gumbo for New Orleans food – spicy, like the holiday. And there’s not a thing wrong with that. But here’s something a little different that will please the anti-heat wimps but still have lots of flavor. Yes, it involves a roux, but don’t freak out. Natives of Louisiana are as born to make roux as Tar Heels are to smoke pork, but we each can learn.

If you’re inexperienced at roux-making, keep the heat on medium to medium-high (no higher), and go slow. Do. Not. Stop. Stirring. Not even if Justin Bieber shows up at your door and wants you to give him a haircut. That flour and oil can burn before you can say “Oh, look, the lottery numbers are being announced.” Focus, people.

This recipe is from”New Orleans Home Cooking” by Louisiana native Dale Curry. I modified it to make it easier to prepare. You could use a bottled Creole seasoning instead of the herbs, but most of them are very high in salt. I prefer to do my own seasoning.

Shrimp Creole

1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

1 bell pepper, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

Juice of 1/2 lemon

1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce

1 (16-ounce) can chopped tomatoes

1 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

2 bay leaves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste

A few dashes hot pepper sauce, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon dried thyme

1 tablespoon sugar

Salt to taste

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

Cooked rice

In a large pot over medium heat the flour and oil to make the roux. Cook and stir until the roux is peanut butter-colored. Immediately add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Stir and cook until soft.

Add the lemon juice, tomato sauce, tomatoes, chicken broth, Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves, cayenne, hot pepper sauce, oregano, basil, thyme and sugar. Stir, then taste and add salt as needed. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes. Add the shrimp and cook about 10 more minutes, until the shrimp is done. The consistency of the sauce should be thick. Serve over cooked rice.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.