Making The Old -- and The Good -- New Again

By James Parrish Coleman -- a/k/a Jimbo Coleman

A later edition. Early Editions had a white

spine, and ads for long extinct local business.


Gulf Coast Gourmet was compiled by my late mother, Jane S. Coleman, in the early 1960s. The book was a fund raiser for the Foley Woman's Club.

The illustrations are the original work of a very talented artist named Marion Dyer. The book has been in print for many, many years; but has the simple fault of assuming you know about Gulf seafood and really know how to cook. I'll cook through the book (and my childhood), explain how Jane Coleman cooked, and tell a lot of family stories in the process. I like to cook. I will share what I have, and hope you like it. That's the spirit of this blog. Bon Appetit.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Shrimp A La Camellia



 Shrimp Camellia

This is one of my mother's favorite "party" dishes. My sister says the recipe came from my mother's great friend, Flossie Michaelson. Flossie was a wonderful cook, and a tremendous amount of fun.  I always associate Shrimp Camellia with a table crowded with visiting Methodist preachers. The name "Camellia" comes from the very slight rose tinge the dish takes on from the tomatoes. In our house, we call it "Shrimp Camellia" with none of the "A LA" business attached.

Cross on the beach in Gulf Shores, Ala.  In the mid 1960s. 

The Foley/Gulf Shores Methodist Churches were
served by one minister, family friend Tom Butts. He held a 
service on the beach early on Sunday Mornings. He and a lot of his 
fellow preachers were often guests in our home. They enjoyed my
father's company very much, let their hair down a little and
are a lot  of Shrimp Camellia.
 Many cultures have rice dishes with good stuff added in, and this is simply another addition to all the risottos, paella and fried rice in the world. 


The result is a very rich dish, with a smooth and comforting character. 


Shrimp Camellia is also easy to cook, and will hold on the back of the stove for a long time. As the recipe says, it is necessary to let the dish stand for a while to allow the flavors to develop.


As with anything, the technique is all about building flavor. Little things that give the extra gloss and character to the dish. 




Now Let's Cook!




Notes on ingredients
Shrimp
All the good stuff. Stock, rice, mushrooms, sausage, shrimp, pimentos. On
left, butter, onions, garlic, tomato and raisins
I just wore this subject out on the last post! Take a look. Use medium to medium large shrimp for this dish.


Fresh Pork Sausage
If you use the wrong kind of sausage in Shrimp Camellia, you will destroy the subtle flavor of the dish.
Links as called for in the recipe. You can use
any reasonably mild sausage. I like an Italian
sweet sausage with no fennel for this dish
 Try this with some hot sausage, andoullie, chrorizo or something similar if you like. It would be an interesting thing to do, but would not be Shrimp Camellia.



This seafood dish is about a nice smooth comforting flavor. The cooking of Gulf Coast Gourmet came before the “Cajun Craze” which unfortunately made of lot of the world think that Louisiana cooking meant super hot and spicy. It is not. Tinker with the sausage for fun, but use a mild sweet variety that does not have any fennel added as seasoning.









Can Sliced Mushrooms
Playing Cards! Methodist ministers!

A Papist plot!?!? No, just a bunch of 
men who wanted to be regular guys. 
The preachers who would visit the house  
loved to be with my father. He was a lot 
of fun, and a regular guy. Once, some
newcomers wanted to "play a little poker."
Daddy, who had been an old Army, early
1940s soldier with 42 months overseas,
knew a little about playing cards. He 
covered the table with a blanket, and 
proceeded to relieve the room-full of 
them of their money. A few were stunned
that he didn't offer to give it back.  For 
them, more praying -- less playing.
Wow, canned mushrooms. Remember, in 1960 there were not a lot of fresh mushrooms available on the grocery store shelf. Canned mushrooms were available. I don’t cook with them, but did in this dish -- because that’s what Mama said. The canned product has a texture that is kind of slick and rubbery at the same time. I’ll use fresh in the future. If you want to go “retro,” use canned.


Garlic

Is there anything better? No. Learn how

to crush and mince garlic with your
cook's knife. Try to avoid a garlic
crusher, which mushes the garlic into
a nasty little wad of garlic. 













"Hey, Carlo, more garlic!"
Fresh garlic is one of the joys of my life, right up there with sailboats and the Brandenburg Concertos. Use fresh, with no little green sprouts.
In cooking soups and gumbos, a last-minute addition of fresh garlic and/or lemon juice creates a great flavor. Roasted garlic on bread is one of life's simple pleasures.
Cooks in the 1960s would think we were a bunch of Sicilians if we compared the skimpy use of garlic then with its regular use now. Olive oil, kosher salt, balsamic vinegar, pepper and garlic are the only things always on my cutting board when I cook.
Tomatoes

Cento tomatoes. There are a lot of

good brands, but I like the label
and the fact that they are produced
in Italy. 
Peel a fresh tomato as follows: Dip
 in boiling water for a 1/4 Hail Mary 
(HailMaryfullofgracethelord
iswithyou) dip in ice-water for another 
1/4 Hail Mary. (blessedartthouamoung
womenandblestbethefruitofthywombJesus)
The skin will come right off the peeled
tomato. Works for Methodists and Baptists,
too.

The recipe calls for three medium tomatoes. Today, it is common to see several varieties of tomato in the store. Some of them are even approaching ripeness! In my  mother’s day, this was not so common. There would be one variety of tomato available, and it was probably not so ripe. I use ripe Romas. I buy them in the store, except when they come from Frances’ garden for those few months in the summer. You can use canned tomatoes to good result. Canned tomatoes are a different product from fresh, but a pretty good and useful product nonetheless. 


Rice
The rice of my childhood. It's still what I buy
because it is so familiar to me. 
Long grain is what’s called for here. It would be fun to try the dish with medium or short grain rice. The texture would be slightly different, with a slightly drier, but still sticky dish.


Chicken Broth


You call it broth, we call it stock. Use a good homemade chicken stock. I ranted and raved about chicken stock in the post “How I think you should cook.” See what I had to say there, and do as you are told!


Pimento
A fresh pimento, not usually available
in stores. I'll use it when I find it.
I made some new friends with this ingredient, and took a few risks. Although I grew up eating pimento and cheese sandwiches (which I was never too crazy about), I never cook with pimentos. I was shopping with a copy of the cookbook in hand (to make sure I got the necessary stuff). I ask a kind lady something about pimentos. I had just returned from moving boxes at an office. I looked (and smelled) like an over-age longshoreman. Her younger companion gave me the fisheye, but the older lady was in the kind, helpful and a little patronizing. "Show this dumb bunny sent to the store with his wife’s cookbook where the pimentos are" was the tone. Use the chopped pimentos in the pickle section. They come in a small flat jar. See, you thought they were only in the middle of a martini olive.





Are these pimentos fresh? Of course, chef has just opened

the jar!
Pimento, as in pimento and cheese sandwich, is a fine old southern dish up there with three-bean salad and other things that you'll find after a funeral. The two items shown here need a little bread, mayo and a slicing knife to make the little finger sandwiches that southerners remember from those days before Food TV and our new enlightenment in the kitchen.








Raisins
The cookbook says “dried raisins”. Silly me, I thought dried were the only kind! I got in trouble with my sister when I commented on this.




Tom Butts, (above, in his Shrimp
Camellia eating days) the 
undisputed King of all the Methodist
ministers who visited our
home. He performed weddings for both 
my sister and me, christened me (as a
12 year old -- you shoulda'
seen that christning gown), and 
preached at the funerals of
both of my parents. A stand-up
guy, who knows he is the center
of the universe, Tom was a real
soldier in the fight for civil rights
when it would get you fired --
or killed. He is the best public
speaker I know. When
I met saw him preach in the mid
1960s, I noticed he was the
center of attention, both at the
pulpit and at the back door as
the congregation left. That was
a racket I wanted to get into!
However, I had to settle for 
second best.  I finally became
a lawyer and not a minister
because I cuss too much 
to be a preacher. (To say nothing 
of the fact that I'm now Catholic.)

Tom today, still
a dude of some 
renown. 









Technique
The recipe text is shown in red with comments shown in black.

Dutch Oven, make sure you get
one with the wire-bail handle.
Melt butter in a pan which has a close fitting lid. 
Time to use the dutch oven. If you don't have one, stop right now and go get a cast iron dutch oven with a cast iron lid. Accept no substitutes. The heavy construction prevents "hot spots" and allows you to brown, simmer and do all kind of magical things. It will last a lifetime, and is an essential piece of kitchen equipment.

When you melt the butter, do not do so over too high a heat. Butter burns, and that's not what you want here.
Partially cook onion and sausage.


Pork sausage and butter, a wonderful sight!
 Put the sausage in first. The idea here is to brown the sausage and produce some Liquid Porcine Lipid Magic (Pork fat). This magical ingredient will add flavor to just about anything. After the sausage -- which must be removed from the skin if you bought links -- produces that fat, add the onions. Be careful to not cook them under high enough heat to blacken any of them. Take it easy, and get a nice translucent onion.

This shows the browning process after the introduction of
those odd little tan objects known as canned mushrooms.
Get some color on that sausage. Brown is where the flavor-
trons come from. Don't burn it, brown it. 

Add tomatoes, shrimp and broth
Easy enough. When you add these items, make sure you have evaporated the mixture in the pan so it is rather dry. Also, if you use canned tomatoes don't put in a lot of juice. The reason this is important is because you later want to make sure you have the right ratio of rice to liquid.

The shrimp used here are a little larger than usual, but that's fine. Don't use a shrimp so large that a person can't put it on a fork. Even though the cooking time here will be rather long, it is very gentle. The shrimp should not be overcooked. If you boil the dish, you'll get tough shrimp. Bad ju-ju.

Next, add rice, salt and pepper


Peeled and De-veined Shrimp, 36/40 per pound
Remember, what you're doing here is cooking the rice and other goodies at the same time. So put it all together and let it go.

 Cover pan tightly. Cook in moderate 350 degree oven, or on top of stove over very low heat, 20 or 30 minutes until rice is tender.
This is where the dutch oven does the work for you. The heavy cast iron pot will keep the heat even and moderate.  If you put the dish on top of the stove (I usually cook in the oven), use a pad or something to keep the heat very low. The oven give you a little better control. Don't do a lot of peeking and do not stir the dish while cooking.
When you add the shrimp, pull them from the side of the pan.
Rice and liquid go in to make the final mixture.

You are going to have to check to see if the "rice is tender" after 20 minutes or so. Just open the lid, take out a few grains and put the lid back on. Don't let the steam (which is doing the cooking) escape.

...occasionally lifting rice with a fork. Do not stir.
A little classic "lifting with the fork" , whatever that means


This direction is classic "Gulf Coast Gourmet". I don't really understand lifting rice with a fork. I do know what they want us to do, however.





Stick the fork into the rice and lift up a little make sure nothing sticks and that liquid can evaporate. This is not like fluffing rice. Just be gentle with this and it will work fine.

Remove from heat.


Simple enough. Now we're going to add in the little bits of this recipe that really make it special.

Add the sauteed raisins and pimento to above mixture.


Put a saute' pan on the heat with a little butter. When the butter is hot, put in the pimento and raisins. To the left, you will see a few errant pieces of onion. (I don't waste stray bits -- even when taking pictures)

Saute' until the raisins are puffed up, like you see here. The sweetness this gives the dish is a genius touch. Place this sauteed raisins and pimento on the mixture which remains in the dutch oven. Very gently fold the two together.

Just before folding the two mixtures together. 
The dish should stand long enough before serving for the seasonings to flavor thoroughly. Serves 6.



After covering and letting sit for about 20 minutes the dish will color and season. I always leave it on top of the stove (not over a burner!) where it can't get cool. The heavy dutch oven keeps it warm as well.

This is a great dish to serve with fish, (Snapper St. John next week's dish is just out of the frame.)

Plain Text: Recipe and Shopping List


Shopping List
2lb Shrimp 36/40 or smaller
Butter
Onion (sweet is best_
Sausage (mild or sweet italian)
Garlic
Pimentos (canned or whole)
Mushrooms
Four Tomatoes (Roma fresh or canned if you must)
Raisins
Chicken Stock (Make your own!)
Rice


Technique
The recipe text is shown in red with comments shown in black.

Melt butter in a pan which has a close fitting lid. 
Time to use the dutch oven. If you don't have one, stop right now and go get a cast iron dutch oven with a cast iron lid. Accept no substitutes. The heavy construction prevents "hot spots" and allows you to brown, simmer and do all kind of magical things. It will last a lifetime, and is an essential piece of kitchen equipment.
When you melt the butter, do not do so over too high a heat. Butter burns, and that's not what you want here.
Partially cook onion and sausage.
 Put the sausage in first. The idea here is to brown the sausage and produce some Liquid Porcine Lipid Magic (Pork fat). This magical ingredient will add flavor to just about anything. After the sausage -- which must be removed from the skin if you bought links -- produces that fat, add the onions. Be careful to not cook them under high enough heat to blacken any of them. Take it easy, and get a nice translucent onion.
Add tomatoes, shrimp and broth
Easy enough. When you add these items, make sure you have evaporated the mixture in the pan so it is rather dry. Also, if you use canned tomatoes don't put in a lot of juice. The reason this is important is because you later want to make sure you have the right ratio of rice to liquid.
The shrimp used here are a little larger than usual, but that's fine. Don't use a shrimp so large that a person can't put it on a fork. Even though the cooking time here will be rather long, it is very gentle. The shrimp should not be overcooked. If you boil the dish, you'll get tough shrimp. Bad ju-ju.
Next, add rice, salt and pepper
Remember, what you're doing here is cooking the rice and other goodies at the same time. So put it all together and let it go.
 Cover pan tightly. Cook in moderate 350 degree oven, or on top of stove over very low heat, 20 or 30 minutes until rice is tender.
This is where the dutch oven does the work for you. The heavy cast iron pot will keep the heat even and moderate.  If you put the dish on top of the stove (I usually cook in the oven), use a pad or something to keep the heat very low. The oven give you a little better control. Don't do a lot of peeking and do not stir the dish while cooking.
You are going to have to check to see if the "rice is tender" after 20 minutes or so. Just open the lid, take out a few grains and put the lid back on. Don't let the steam (which is doing the cooking) escape.
...occasionally lifting rice with a fork. Do not stir.
This direction is classic "Gulf Coast Gourmet". I don't really understand lifting rice with a fork. I do know what they want us to do, however.
Stick the fork into the rice and lift up a little make sure nothing sticks and that liquid can evaporate. This is not like fluffing rice. Just be gentle with this and it will work fine.
Remove from heat.
Simple enough. Now we're going to add in the little bits of this recipe that really make it special.
Add the sauteed raisins and pimento to above mixture.
Put a saute' pan on the heat with a little butter. When the butter is hot, put in the pimento and raisins. To the left, you will see a few errant pieces of onion. (I don't waste stray bits -- even when taking pictures)
Saute' until the raisins are puffed up, like you see here. The sweetness this gives the dish is a genius touch. Place this sauteed raisins and pimento on the mixture which remains in the dutch oven. Very gently fold the two together.
The dish should stand long enough before serving for the seasonings to flavor thoroughly. Serves 6.
After covering and letting sit for about 20 minutes the dish will color and season. I always leave it on top of the stove (not over a burner!) where it can't get cool. The heavy dutch oven keeps it warm as well.


Next week: Fish! 

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