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.
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
|All the good stuff. Stock, rice, mushrooms, sausage, shrimp, pimentos. On|
left, butter, onions, garlic, tomato and raisins
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
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
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.
Cento tomatoes. There are a lot of
good brands, but I like the label
and the fact that they are produced
|The rice of my childhood. It's still what I buy|
because it is so familiar to me.
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!
|A fresh pimento, not usually available|
in stores. I'll use it when I find it.
Are these pimentos fresh? Of course, chef has just opened
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.
|Dutch Oven, make sure you get|
one with the wire-bail handle.
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!|
|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|
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.|
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
2lb Shrimp 36/40 or smaller
Onion (sweet is best_
Sausage (mild or sweet italian)
Pimentos (canned or whole)
Four Tomatoes (Roma fresh or canned if you must)
Chicken Stock (Make your own!)