Cajun Shrimp Stew

A big bowl of stew. It has to be one of the most comforting foods out there, especially when the temperatures start to drop. I can already see myself huddled under a blanket on the couch this fall with football on the tv and a hearty bowl of stew in my lap. If Shane has any say, it’ll be this Cajun shrimp stew. He flagged the recipe on his first pass through the book, and when I noticed it was one of the recipes we were allowed to share on our blog, I really wanted to give it a try. You may be noticing a theme with our picks for Emeril’s One-Pot Blogger Cooking Party: comfort food. We can’t help ourselves! There’s more on the way next week too :)

Cajun Shrimp Stew

First things first – before you can start on the stew, you need to make shrimp stock. As much as I love homemade versions of store-bought items, I pretty much never make my own stock. I attempted chicken stock a few years ago, and it was good, but honestly we don’t use enough chicken stock around here for me to find it worth the effort. But, I wanted to stay true to Emeril’s recipe and since it called for homemade stock that’s what I used. He noted that the homemade shrimp stock makes a huge difference in the flavor of the stew. The good news? This shrimp stock was super easy, and only took about an hour (and most of that time is hands off, just letting the stock simmer). You start with shrimp heads/tails, water, some veggies and herbs/spices in a pot and you end up with a stock that’s rich in both color and flavor.

Cajun Shrimp Stew

With the stock made, I moved on to the stew. The only thing even remotely tricky about the stew is getting the roux cooked properly. I’ve watched enough Top Chef to know that when a recipe calls for a medium roux, a light roux, or worse, a burned one, won’t yield the flavor you want in the final result. I stood over the stove whisking my roux and keeping a close eye on it like I haven’t watched anything cook in quite a while. I thought it would never take on the medium peanut butter color Emeril mentioned, but around the 10 minute mark it happened! (happy dance!) I wouldn’t be nearly as nervous next time. As long as you keep an eye on the roux, continue whisking it pretty much constantly and manage the heat under the pot, it’s really not very difficult. The rest of the recipe is a walk in the park, and we were serving ourselves big bowls of the stew before long.

Cajun Shrimp Stew

I’ll admit, I was a bit hesitant. I’ve never had a Cajun shrimp stew before, and I found the color slightly off-putting. Shane had already begun eating while I was photographing, though, and he gave it a big thumbs-up so that was a good sign. When I dug in, I agreed with him completely – the stew was great! Warm, comforting and so flavorful. The recipe makes a ton so we halved it, and still there were leftovers. Shane brought them for lunch the next day and assured me the stew was just as good reheated.

Here’s my only question – Emeril suggested serving the stew over rice. It seemed weird to me to serve something that already has a starch (potatoes) in it over another starch. I’ve never been to Louisiana and don’t have much experience with Cajun cooking, so I’m really curious about this. Is it traditional to serve stew over rice?

And now for the fun part – a GIVEAWAY! Today I’m giving you a chance to win your own copy of Emeril Lagasse’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders!

SizzlingSkillets jacket cover Hi-Res

The book is full of one-pot recipes and it’s divided into chapter by the type of pan used – there are sections on Dutch ovens, slow cookers, skillets and woks, to name a few. Though this Cajun shrimp stew is only the 3rd recipe I’ve shared, we’ve already made three others with overwhelming positive results.  The book won’t be released until September 27, so here’s your chance to get a copy before you can buy it!

How To Enter

To enter, simply leave a comment on this post! Say hello, tell me about your plans for the weekend or share which of Emeril’s dishes that I’ve shared thus far you really want to try.

To Receive Bonus Entries (you must leave a separate comment for each)

1.  Like Emeril Lagasse on Facebook
2.  Follow Emeril on Twitter
3.  Like The Secret Ingredient Blog on Facebook
4.  Follow Morrow Cooks on Twitter
5.  Follow Tracey’s Culinary Adventures on Twitter
6.  Like Tracey’s Culinary Adventures on Facebook

{Note: if you already do any of these things, that counts too, just leave a comment for each one telling me.}

Comments on this giveaway will close on Thursday, September 22, 2011 at 10 pm EST. A winner will be chosen using random.org. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only (sorry!). Good luck!

**Updated: Comments are now closed. Winners will be announced on September 23!**

Congratulations to commenter #10, Jeannette! Hope you enjoy your copy of Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders! Thank you to everyone who entered.
Screen shot 2011-09-22 at 10.13.32 PM

And finally – the recipe :)

Cajun Shrimp Stew

1 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
1/4 cup minced garlic (about 12 cloves)
10 cups Rich Shrimp Stock (recipe below)
2 bay leaves
1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
3 large baking potatoes (2 1/2 to 3 lbs), peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
2 pounds small or medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped green onion, green part only
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
Steamed long-grain white rice, for serving

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed Dutch oven over medium-high heat and, when hot, add the flour. Whisk to combine and continue to cook, stirring constantly, until a medium roux is formed (it should look a bit darker than peanut butter), about 10 minutes. (If the roux begins to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium or medium-low and take your time—it is important that the roux not be burned at all or the stew will have a bitter taste.) As soon as the roux is the right color, add the chopped onion and cook until soft, stirring occasionally, 4 to 6 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the stock, little by little, and bring the sauce to a gentle boil. Add the bay leaves, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, and 4 teaspoons of the salt and reduce the heat so that the sauce just simmers. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the floury taste is gone, 30 to 45 minutes.

Add the potatoes and continue to cook, uncovered and stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are very tender and the sauce is thick and flavorful, 30 to 40 minutes longer. (Add a bit of water or chicken broth to thin the gravy should the stew get too thick during the cook time. The sauce is meant to be thick and rich but not pasty.)

Toss the shrimp with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir the shrimp, green onion, and parsley into the stew and continue to cook until the shrimp are just cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Remove the bay leaves. Serve the stew in shallow bowls over hot white rice.

Serves 6-8

Rich Shrimp Stock

1 to 1 1/2 pounds shrimp shells and heads
1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
14 cups water
1 large onion, unpeeled, roughly chopped (the onion peel deepens the color of the stock)
1/2 cup roughly chopped celery
2 small carrots, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons black peppercorns
3 sprigs fresh thyme
2 large sprigs fresh parsley

Rinse the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander under cold running water and allow to drain.

In a large stockpot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shells are pink and toasty-fragrant, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the water and all the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming any foam that comes to the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to cook at a slow simmer until the stock is flavorful, 45 to 60 minutes.

Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve into a large heatproof bowl and allow it to cool completely. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days before using. (The stock may also be placed in airtight containers and frozen for up to several months.)

Makes about 12 cups

Note: You can easily double the ingredient amounts to make a larger batch of stock. To save space in the freezer, you can reduce the stock further after straining and discarding the solids. Just add water to the defrosted stock to reconstitute as needed.

Recipes reprinted with permission from Emeril Lagasse’s Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders © 2011. You can pre-order a copy here.

{Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Sizzling Skillets and Other One-Pot Wonders in exchange for participating in the party. All of the opinions expressed are mine alone.}