Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Shrimp with Tasso

Regionalism is shrinking. Once if you wanted a certain “regional” food, such as the many permutations of barbecue (Memphis. St. Louis, Texas, North Carolina, etc), or lobster rolls or even Buffalo wings, you had to travel to get it.
But now distances have been shortened.  Northerners now try their hand at being pit masters. Buffalo wings, or some sorry version, are everywhere. You can order Corky’s barbecue off of the TV.
There are advantages and disadvantages to this of course. But if it makes a great ingredient more easily obtainable, I’m there.
Tasso is spiced, smoked pork shoulder used in Southern Louisiana, Cajun/Creole in origin.
I have been lucky to find locally made tasso at our local farmer's market supplied by Freeland Market.
Freeland Market is a family-run business in Pottstown. They make a large variety of sausages and they also make a great version of  tasso. 
The uses of tasso are pretty limitless; think of where you might use bacon and tasso makes for a spicy, smoky alternative. Just slice off what you need and rewrap it. I keep it in the freezer and take it out as I need it.
This recipe for shrimp sautéed with tasso is very NOLA in origin. While shrimp broth is called for in the recipe, you can skip that and substitute with a little beer instead. I wouldn’t use a beer with too complex a flavor for it might get in the way, but I wouldn’t use some type of “light” beer either. The shrimp broth is easy to put together using the shells of the shrimp in the recipe. Peel the shrimp and make the stock while you do the rest of the prep. The stock should be ready when you are ready to cook. Shrimp stock, like most seafood stocks, cooks for only 20 minute or so. There’s always the option of using chicken broth, too. The recipe for shrimp stock follows at the end.
Serve the shrimp with some rice, cold beer, and you are all set. As the late, red suspendered Cajun chef Justin (“Joo-stan”) Wilson used to say, “It’s wondermus, I ghar-un-tee.”

Shrimp with Tasso
For two servings

½ to ¾ pound shrimp
½ cup diced tasso
2 or 3 spring onions (scallions), chopped (about ½ cup)
½ cup diced red bell pepper
1 rib celery, diced
2 or 3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup chopped (canned) plum tomatoes, along with some of their juice
shrimp stock (recipe below)
1 to 2 Tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, optional
salt and ground black pepper
olive oil, for cooking

1. Peel and devein the shrimp; reserve the shells for stock. Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper. When the pan is hot, swirl in one to two tablespoons olive oil into the pan. Add the shrimp; you don’t want to cook the shrimp entirely at this point. Sear them off on one side, turn them and sear them on the other side, then transfer them to a plate.
2. Let the pan cool slightly then add the tasso, adding additional oil to the pan if necessary. Stir and let the tasso cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the onions, bell pepper and celery, and continue cooking. Scrape the bottom of the sauté pan as the vegetables cook to loosen any “browned bits” that might have developed. Saute the vegetables until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes and some of their juice; season with salt and black pepper. Ladle in about ½ cup shrimp stock (or some beer or chicken broth) to the pan and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan to finish cooking the shrimp. Taste and add salt and pepper, if needed; stir in the parsley, the butter (if using) and remove the pan from the heat. Divide the rice between two bowls and divide the shrimp, tasso, vegetables, and sauce. Serve with cold beer.

Shrimp Stock
Reserved shrimp shells
3 cups cold water
½ teaspoon salt
½ onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1. Place the shrimp shells and vegetables into a saucepot; add the water and salt. Place the pot over high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook the stock for twenty minutes. Remove from heat. Strain the stock through a colander or strainer, reserving the liquid. Discard the shells and vegetables.

There is also a recipe for corn and tasso “hash” in the archives 7/8/12

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