Cajun Shrimp Stew
1. 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.
2. 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.)
3. 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.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
Rich Shrimp Stock
1. Rinse the shrimp shells and heads in a large colander under cold running water and allow to drain.
2. 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.
3. 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.)
Yield: about 12 cups