Today is Fat Tuesday, aka Mardi Gras! Traditionally, this is a day of feasting on rich foods before the privations of Lent, which begins on Wednesday. New Orleans celebrates Mardi Gras with parades, costumes and alcohol (lots of it). But when it comes to food, in New Orleans you eat Creole.
Creole food originated in Louisiana in the 18th century from descendants of French settlers. Portuguese, Spanish and Italian immigrants brought their love of tomatoes and peppers to the table as well. The result? Bold, spicy dishes that have become synonymous with great early American cooking, otherwise known as Creole.
It was simple food with a definite kick (Emeril calls it, “Bam!”) but it wasn’t always healthful by today’s standards. Creole sauces were made up of a “roux,” equal parts of fat (usually butter) and flour, cooked in a cast-iron pan until dark brown and then thinned with broth. Want to know what roux will do for you? The king of contemporary Creole cooking, chef Paul Prudhomme — weighed 485 pounds when he opened his first New Orleans restaurant. Need I say more?
The following recipe for Shrimp Creole is roux-less, but it does contain the classic “holy trinity” of Creole cooking — onion, celery and green bell pepper. It’s also got the heat of cayenne pepper and a splash of genuine Louisiana-born Tabasco Sauce.
I found it years ago in a long out-of-print Weight Watchers cookbook and it’s been a favorite of mine ever since. Adding sliced zucchini is not authentically Creole, but it makes for heartier servings and an extra helping of vegetables. Chef Prudhomme may frown on all that zucchini, but I am fully on board with the embellishment. Zucchini doesn’t call attention to itself. It’s a team player.
More spicy delicious food without extra girth, what’s not to love? Happy Mardi Gras!
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 (14.5-oz.) can diced tomatoes
1 (8-oz.) can tomato sauce
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound shrimp, peeled
3 small or 2 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
Tabasco Sauce to taste
In a large nonstick skillet heat the oil and add the onion, garlic, celery and bell peppers. Cook until softened, about 5-7 minutes.
Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, Worcestershire sauce, oregano, thyme, cayenne, salt and pepper. Simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. If sauce becomes too thick, add a bit of water or chicken broth.
Add the shrimp and zucchini. Cover and simmer on low heat until shrimp are pink, 5-7 minutes.
Serve with brown rice and Tabasco Sauce.
WW SP: 3