February 16, 2015

Cajun Shrimp Skillet

Mardi Gras was never really a big thing in Atlanta, but I didn't realize some people still celebrated it until I moved up north and nobody has said anything. Seriously, nothing. Who wouldn't want an excuse to eat beignet and king cake and lots of other Cajun and Creole delicacies? Well, I suppose if you smother everything in cheese and make something called a tater tot casserole it's not as big of a deal. But still. What these Wisconsinites need is some down-home Cajun cooking, and I have just the recipe.

This dish is surprisingly simple given that it has so many complex flavors. It's essentially shrimp served over a bed of rice and vegetables, but the trick is to build up multiple layers of flavor. That begins by blooming the spices in some oil, which sounds like a lot of extra work but really only takes a few minutes. By letting the spices cook in some hot oil for a few minutes, they become so much more fragrant and potent. Since they are the base of the dish and pretty much everything else is cooked with them, this is pretty important.

The next layer is the Cajun version of a mirepoix. A mirepoix is a traditional French base for a variety of dishes and consists of onions, celery and carrots. In Louisiana, however, bell peppers are substituted for the carrots to create what is commonly known as the Holy Trinity. This all cooks with the shrimp for a few minutes until the onions are almost tender, then the garlic and jalapenos are stirred in. The jalapeno adds a bit of heat and, well, everything could use a little garlic.

The vegetables don't stop there, though. I also add fresh tomatoes and scallions for a bit of tartness and more oniony flavor. The colors are also beautiful, which is always a big plus. Finally, I stir in some cooked rice. It can be any type so long as it's plain but well-salted. Brown rice is fine if you're looking to be a little healthier (although this dish is already quite good for you), but so is long-grain, jasmine, or even leftover takeout rice. By the time it's warmed through, the shrimp should be opaque and the veggies should be cooked, so the dish is ready to eat! Your protein, carbs, and veggies are all in one dish, making dinner a breeze and leaving more time for other Mardi Gras festivities.

1 lb Medium Shrimp, Peeled & Deveined
2 Ribs Celery, Diced
1 Yellow Onion, Diced
1 Bell Pepper, Diced
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeno, Minced
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
1 tsp Chili Powder
½ tsp Cayenne
½ tsp Garlic Powder
½ tsp Onion Powder
½ tsp Paprika
4 Plum Tomatoes, Diced
4 Scallions, Sliced
3 Cups Cooked Rice

Heat some oil in a large skillet. Add the Cajun seasoning, chili powder, cayenne, garlic powder, onion powder, and paprika. Stir in the shrimp, celery, onions, and bell peppers and season with salt and pepper; cook for 4 minutes or until the onions are tender. Stir in the jalapeno and garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and scallions and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the rice and cook until heated through and the shrimp are opaque.

Serves 4-6
Recipe Adapted from Food Network

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