Tasteful Creole Sauce and Shrimp

The tomatoes are ripe. And, not just one or two but baskets full. You know what that means? Time to make Creole sauce! Technically creole sauce is to be made with “creole tomatoes,” but the big secret is that there is really no such thing. Many tomato cultivars have the genetic material to look, taste, and smell like the Creole tomato we all know and love. A true Creole tomato is contingent upon the unique growing conditions of the south Louisiana river parishes, but any good, organic, vine-ripened tomato is a viable substitute.

Creole sauce is not only used to make its incredible namesake: Shrimp Creole. Traditionally, jambalaya is topped with creole sauce before serving and it makes a wonderful sauce for grilled fish as well as stuffed peppers.Bear in mind that every family has their own version of the sauce, whether they call it Creole Sauce, Red Gravy, or Sauce Piquant (which is not exactly the same, but darned close). Regardless of the name, they all contain the same basic ingredients of tomatoes, “Cajun Trinity” (onion, celery, bell pepper), garlic, hot peppers, bay leaf and stock (chicken, vegetable or otherwise.)

Here is our variation on this classic sauce. This recipe makes a large batch. If you don’t use it all for one meal, freeze the remaining sauce for use as a topping for other delicious Cajun-style dishes.

  • 2 pounds medium to large shrimp, with shells on
  • 2 1/2 cups stock (shrimp. chicken or vegetable)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/2 cups, in all, chopped onions
  • 2 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 ½ cups green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
  • 4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • ½ teaspoons dried basil
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 3 cups fresh “Creole” tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Peel and rinse shrimp, and refrigerate until needed. Add the shrimp shells to a quart of water and bring to a boil. Chop onions, celery, bell and jalapeno peppers and garlic keeping one cup of onions separated. Add all the vegetable trimmings to the shrimp shells along with a pinch of salt and let simmer while you sauté the vegetables.

Heat the vegetable oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add one cup of the onions and cook over high heat for 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Lower the heat to low and keep stirring, until the onions have caramelized to a rich brown color, but not burned, another 3-5 minutes. Add the rest of the onions, celery, green peppers and butter. Cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until celery and pepper become tender, roughly 5 minutes.

Next add the mustard, garlic, bay leaf, all the spices, hot sauce, ½ cup of the stock, and diced tomatoes (basically add everything but the tomato sauce, sugar and the rest of the stock) and increase the heat back to medium. Cook stirring and scraping the pan bottom well for 10 minutes. Then add the tomato sauce, sugar and remaining 2 cups stock and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

If you are making the sauce ahead, cool and refrigerate without adding the shrimp. If serving immediately, turn the heat off and add the shrimp. Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes, or until the shrimp are just plump and pink and not overcooked. Serve immediately by placing a mound of rice in the center of a plate and ladling a generous portion of shrimp creole sauce around the rice.