John Besh's new version of a longtime Louisiana favorite has Vietnamese influences; it's spicy and sweet, full of herbs and flavor. Any ultraripe tomatoes will work.
John Besh's Shrimp Creole
Makes 12 to 15 servings
5 lbs. jumbo Louisiana or wild American shring, peeled and deveined
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh lemongrass
1/2 cup olive oil
3 medium onions, diced
10 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 bell pepper, red, green or yellow, seeded and diced
5 lbs. overripe Brandywine tomatoes or other heirloom tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
Leaves from 2 branches fresh basil, chopped
Leaves from 1 sprig fresh mint, chopped
6-8 cups cooked white rice
Put the shrimp into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper, then mix in lemongrass. Heat 1/4 cup of the olive oil in a large, deep skillet over moderate heat. Add shrimp, stirring and tossing them with a spatula. Saute until they turn pink, about 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp from the pan and set aside.
In the same skillet, add remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, onions, garlic, celery and bell peppers. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium-low and when sauce comes to a simmer add bay leaf, allspice and red pepper flakes. Simmer 10 minutes.
Add shrimp back to the skillet along with basil and mint. Cook for a minute or two. Season with salt and pepper. If the sauce tastes too tart, add a little sugar to balance the flavor. Remove bay leaf. Serve over steamed white rice.