Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Gotta love some Cajun

In honor of this this season's Top Chef finale taking place in New Orleans and Mardi Gras being yesterday I decided to make my own Cajun-inspired meal. I say Cajun-inspired because neither of these recipes are specifically labeled as Cajun, but for the soup I took into account alot of the spices that are used in Cajun cuisine and the shrimp are just something my family calls Cajun Shrimp and the first time dad made them we had them on our version of Po'Boys. Now in the event that anyone who actually know Cajun cuisine intimately reads this, please know that this is just a Northern Girl's interpretation of what I have learned are Cajun flavors.

Now that that's out of the way, onto the food. I made a slow cooker Black Bean & Corn Soup and Spicy Cajun Shrimp. Because I knew I wanted to incorporate some Cajun flavors I did some research. The most important component in Cajun & Creole cuisine is "the holy trinity" which is onions, bell pepper and celery all chopped up and sauteed in oil or fat. This is the base of many of the traditional dishes and where I decided to start my soup. I also used cayenne and bay leaf because according to the write up on Cajun cuisine on Wikipedia, they are spice commonly used as well

Black Bean & Corn soup

1 lb dry black bean
10 oz frozen corn
2 stalks celery - chopped
1 small white onion - chopped
1 green bell pepper - chopped
6 cups chicken stock - this can also be made in the slow cooker I loosely followed this recipe to make mine)
1 can tomato sauce
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
3 bay leaves
salt & pepper

1. Let beans sit covered in water overnight. In the morning drain beans. Put chopped vegetables at the bottom of slow cooker. Pour drained beans on top and add in frozen corn.
2. In a bowl mix together tomato sauce, salt, pepper & cayenne. Pour onto of vegetables in slow cooker. Add in chicken stock and bay leaves. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hrs.
3. Enjoy topped with chopped scallion and creme fraiche

This soup was one of those throw everything in the slow cooker and see what happens and what happened was very tasty. The broth was amazing! Heat with just the right amout of sweet from the corn. It's definitely a brothy soup, but if you prefer something thicker you can either mash up some of the beans in this recipe or use 1/2 lb of dried black beans and 1 can of refried black beans. You can also tailor the amount of cayenne to your liking. I like spice and this has a nice heat that comes at the end of each bite. If you are sensitive to spice I'd cut pack to 1 tsp or maybe even 1/2 tsp.

Onto a family crowd pleaser Spicy Cajun Shrimp. My dad first made these years ago and they have become a go to in our family ever since.

Spicy Cajun Shrimp

1 lb of shrimp - shelled & deveined
4 cloves garlic - finely minced
1/4 olive oil
1 tsp paprika or Paul Prudhomme's Seafood Magic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flake
2 Tbsp dry sherry or dry white wine (I used dry white wine)
1 Tbsp lemon juice

1. Place the oven rack in the top position, just a few inches from the broiler. Preheat broiler. While preheating place an oven safe skillet or a boiler pan in the oven to heat.
2. While the oven is heating mix together all ingredients. Carefully pour into heated pan and broil for 4-5 minutes until shrimp are pink and golden.
3. Serve with crusty bread and spicy mayo (I mixed some mayonnaise with chipotle puree and a few pinches of sugar)

I love these shrimp they are a great appetizer or great with a meal. Had the soup been thicker I may have even served them on top of the soup and not used the bread or spicy mayo. I did cut back a bit on the red pepper flake, simply because I knew the soup had some heat and I didn't want everything to be really spicy.

The boy gave both dishes a thumbs up which was impressive since I knew going in that he's not a huge black bean fan. It was a nice low-key Mardi Gras inspired feast. Enjoy!

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