Mardi Gras Recipes – Cajun Shrimp Boil
Fat Tuesday is February 17th. And I’m sitting here in Fort Worth, Texas, when I wish I were in the Big Easy.
So I’m posting my February column from Fort Worth Texas Magazine in its entirety just in time for you to run to the store and pick up these simple ingredients to create your own Mardi Gras Fat Tuesday feast.
The recipes include my Cajun Shrimp Boil (using shrimp, sausage and corn), a cold crab salad that’s the perfect accompaniment, and my pecan pralines, which are sugary, buttery, nutty deliciousness in 3 small bites.
Laissez les bon temps rouler (Let the good times roll)
Since Mardi Gras falls in February (the 17th this year), I thought it might be nice to share a couple of my old standby recipes that I’ve made so often over the years. After living in The Big Easy, I came away with a love for those spicy Cajun flavors and a handful of recipes that I’ve made over and over.
The Cajun Shrimp Boil recipe is super simple, and combines huge, fresh Gulf shrimp, sweet corn-on-the-cob and kielbasa, all boiled together with zesty Zatarain’s spice bags. My secret is to tear one bag of the Zatarain’s bags open during cooking to release all those whole spices into the water and onto your plate. This recipe serves a family of 4, and can be easily expanded for a crowd of thirty. If you’re making larger portions, I recommend getting a 12 quart aluminum stock pot with the strainer (or use your turkey fryer.) No plates or silverware allowed for this meal. Cover your table with newspaper, freezer paper or a red checkered plastic tablecloth. Throw it all onto the table, and when dinner’s over, just wrap it all up and throw it away.
The Crab Salad is also super easy and expands nicely for larger groups. It uses fresh, canned or imitation crabmeat – your choice depending on time and budget. I used imitation here, and I have to say…it’s really nice in this salad. It’s sweet and cold and crunchy from the sweet onion and celery, and if you let it set overnight, the flavors really meld together. You’re going to like this easy breezy salad. Serve it atop a large piece of butter lettuce used as a pretty cup.
And finally Pecan Pralines. What can I say? These are one of the easiest desserts to make, and I am not, I repeat NOT, a skilled candy maker or baker. But these sugary nutty little morsels can be made in about 10 minutes, with no baking at all.
So if you don’t have a trip planned to the Crescent City this month, these simple crowd-pleasing recipes can help bring the flavors of the bayou into you own kitchen with very little fuss.
So as they say down on the bayou, Laissez les bon temps rouler!
Louisiana Shrimp Boil
3 packages Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil (in bag)
3 T Zatarain’s Liquid Concentrated Shrimp & Crab Boil
1 large onion, cut into chunks
2 lemons, cut into wedges
¼ C salt
4 ears of corn-on-the-cob, cut in half (or use 8 frozen small corns)
2 lbs. kielbasa, cut into 3” chunks (or Andouille sausage)
2 lbs. large gulf shrimp, heads removed, shells on
Fill pot ¾ full with water and bring to a boil. Add 2 Zatarain’s boiling bags (3rd bag gets torn open later), Zatarain’s liquid boil, lemons and onion and ¼ C salt. Boil for 5 minutes. Add corn and boil for about 8 minutes. [If using frozen half ears of corn, add sausage first, and boil for 5 minutes. Then add frozen corn.] Add sausage and boil for 5 minutes. Then tear open the 3rd bag of Zatarain’s seasoning and add it all to the pot. Add shrimp and cook until pink, about another 3 minutes. Drain and pour directly onto newspaper spread across the table.
On the table: metal buckets for the shrimp peels, French bread, lots of butter, cocktail sauce, lemon wedges, Tabasco sauce, finger wipes, plastic bibs and salt and pepper. No plates or silverware allowed at this party. This is finger food. Serves 4.
4 large pieces of butter lettuce (to use as a cup)
16 oz. imitation crab meat chunks (or fresh or canned, if you prefer)
2 Tbsp. mayonnaise
2 Tbsp. very finely diced onion
2 Tbsp. very finely diced celery
Salt and pepper
Celery leaves (or parsley), as garnish
Paprika, as garnish
Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl and refrigerate for an hour, or overnight if possible, to meld flavors together. Place ½ cup crabmeat salad atop the butter lettuce. Garnish with celery leaves (or parsley) and paprika. Serves 2.
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 Tbsp. butter
½ cup heavy whipping cream
Pinch of sea salt
1 ½ cups pecan pieces
Place sugars, butter, cream and salt in non-stick pot and bring to a boil, stirring regularly about 4 minutes. Add pecans and boil for about another minute. Remove from heat and let cool in the pot until mixture just begins to thicken as it cools slightly. Spoon onto parchment paper and cool completely. Makes about a dozen pralines.
Watch my video making Pecan Pralines at Fort Worth Texas Magazine
As always, a special thanks to Central Market in Fort Worth for providing the groceries used in my recipes.