Nordic as in the shrimp, not as in the flavours of the recipe. There’s no sour cream or dill involved, thank goodness. Just lots of tomatoes, peppers, celery and onions with salty capers, bright lemon peel, warming cloves and calming thyme.
There’s also eggplant to give it a lot of savoury weight, and I subbed tamarind water for Worcestershire sauce (made with tamarind). I wasn’t about to go buy Worcestershire when I had sieved tamarind in my freezer and was about to move. I used up all the odds and ends because I’m not a hulk of a person who likes to carry heavy boxes…That’s also why I was happy to use the lemon peel, which I also had frozen.
This is a lot like a jambalaya, but no sausage. I used a TON of shrimp and the sweet saltiness was addictive.
Nordic Shrimp Creole
adapted from the New York Times Cookbook
2 tbsp plus 1 tbsp earth balance or butter
2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups chopped bell pepper (green preferably for slight bitterness, but yellow, orange or red would all be fine)
1 cup chopped celery
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 25-ounce can plum tomatoes (look for salt-free, and don’t add more salt to taste. The shrimp will be salty enough. I used diced tomatoes. It was fine. Just don’t use crushed)
1/2 cup tomato paste
ground pepper to taste
2 tsp tamarind water (soak an inch of tamarind in 1/2 cup hot water for 30 minutes, then press through a fine-mesh sieve. Freeze the extra for next time)
3 strips of organic lemon peel
2 whole cloves
1/2 tsp sugar (to balance the heat and salt…mmm…do NOT skip it)
3 sprigs fresh thyme (keep on stem, or use 1/2 tsp dried thyme)
1 bay leaf (I did a double batch, which is why you see 2 leaves in the photo)
2 tbsp olive oil or sunflower oil
1 small eggplant, diced (leave the skin on, and consider sweating it in a tablespoon or so of salt in a sieve for 30 minutes if it’s old and bitter. Then rinse and pat dry with paper towel. You don’t need to, though)
1 1/2 lbs shelled Nordic shrimp (or less if it’s too expensive. I could only find frozen peeled shrimp so I didn’t lose weight to peels. My double batch cost a little more than I wanted to spend,but oh it was delicious. If you get them in shell you’ll ahve to peel them, and then you can use the shells for stock, but it’ll take a lot more effort. You also may need to devein, which is a nuisance)
1 tbsp capers
1/4 cup chopped parsley to garnish
1 tbsp earth balance or butter
1 tbsp minced onion
1 clove garlic, minced (or steal 1/2 tsp from the chopping you did above)
1 cup long-grain white rice
1/2 tsp – 1 tbsp Tabasco sauce to taste, plus extra for serving (I used my homemade fermented jalapeno sriracha, which is actually a lot like Tabasco)
2 1/4 cups chicken broth (or water, since it’ll be plenty salty enough as is, and you won’t really taste the rice covered in the hot, sweet and salty shrimp dish)
Make the rice first. Melt the tbsp of earth balance or butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic when hot and stir slowly but constantly for about 5 minutes, stirring so they don’t brown. Reduce the heat if necessary or add a tbsp of water if it starts to stick. Then add the rice and tabasco (less if you’re not as into heat as I am), and stir for 2 minutes. Now you want the rice to stick a little to toast it. Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat but do not remove lid. If anything burnt to the bottom because the heat was too high, this will help, and it will also keep the moisture in so the rice won’t dry out.
Now the shrimp creole. Melt the 2 tbsp earth balance or butter in a large skillet or soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, peppers (not the garlic apparently), and stir for about 7 minutes, or until the garlic translucent. Now add the garlic with the tomatoes and the liquid from the can. Beak up the tomatoes if they’re whole with the back of a spoon. After about 2 minutes add the tomato paste, pepper, tamarind water, lemon peel, cloves, sugar, thyme and bay leaf. Taste and add salt if necessary, but remember the shrimp are coming, so hold back. Simmer about 10 minutes, stirring so nothing sticks.
Heat the olive oil in another large skillet over medium-high heat. It needs to be hot so the eggplant browns. Add the eggplant and let don’t stir-fry it, but let each side brown a little before tossing them. When all sides are browned add the pieces to the tomatoes and cook about 10 minutes until the eggplant is soft.
Add the shrimp and capers with the last tbsp of butter. Stir 1 minute. The shrimp will keep cooking in the heat, and they may have even been pre-cooked, so a short boil is all they need. Taste and add salt if necessary. Now it’s not going to get any saltier, so add more if you need to.
To serve, place a big scoop of rice on a plate and a ladle of shrimp creole on top. Garnish with parsley. Well, that’s one way to do it. But I like it more jambalaya-style, mixing the rice into the shrimp. There’s also a lot of salt in the rice from the broth (probably) and tabasco (definitely), so be extra careful when seasoning the shrimp when you think you’re done. I even had to add extra tabasco while I was eating, upping the salt level even more. But was it ever good…I dream of this. Sweet, salty, hot and a little bit sour. Hitting all the right notes. Not too heavy, with a generous amount of butter. Southern comfort.