Shrimp Supreme. A supremely unusual combination of chili and cinnamon. People will ask what’s in it. Make up bogus ingredients. Smile when they tell you that theirs never tastes like yours. Save the truth for your besties.
By the way, this is in no way similar to all the other Shrimp Supreme recipes on the web. It’s my re-imagining of a dish I had once at my grandmother’s annual iris growers association dinner. It was pot luck and this one old girl brought about a gallon of what appeared to be Shrimp Creole. S.C. is loved by all and the crock was emptied out before half the line made it by.
That’s when the fun started. Everyone took a seat. First bite, mmmm. Second bite, what the? what’s in this stuff cause it’s not Shrimp Creole. I glanced over at the chef on whose crepe paper cheeks a smirk was subtly evident. Finally one of the other ladies leaned forward and piped up. Merlene! What in the sam hill is this made out of? Merlene put down her sweet tea, lifted her nose in the air, took a deep breath and responded. “Why Edna, what a question! It’s nothing but Texas chili powder, bird’s eye peppers and …….cinnamon. Just a pinch.” Cinnamon! And chili powder with cumin and whatever else interesting is in chili powder. A little piece of Tampico washed up on our shores. Merlene later claimed to have gotten it out of Sunset Magazine but wherever it came from it was a hit and Merlene’s personalized recipe cards were passed out to interested parties at the next meeting.
The card is long gone but this is a pretty fair approximation of what we ate that night….and many nights to follow.
The nice thing about this (besides the flavor) is that it looks nice but is basically a dump and stir creation that you can do on a week night or on short notice. Get a couple of cans of diced fire roasted tomatoes, some pre-peeled shrimp, shrimp stock if you have it, chicken stock if you don’t, and start sauteing, dumping, stirring, and subsequently eating over rice or pasta. It’s a good idea to retain the liquid from the drained tomatoes and use it in the sauce to thin it if you need to.
I got all these pretty peppers for the shot but in reality you’ll probably use only a couple of pods sliced open and dropped in the pot while it’s simmering. Chop up some more to sprinkle over the finished dish and you’re good to go.
And be sure and thank Merlene in your prayers because she’s up there enjoying watching you enjoying her shrimp.
- ¼ cup butter
- ½ cup finely diced onion (or leeks or green onions)
- ¼ cup finely diced celery
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- ⅛ tsp. cinnamon
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups shrimp stock* (or chicken stock)
- 2 14 oz. cans of diced tomatoes, drained (reserve liquid)
- 1 tablespoon vermouth (or champagne vinegar)
- 1 to 3 chili pods split & seeded with extra for dicing and garnishing
- 1 lb. small peeled shrimp
- 1 tsp. sugar
- chopped chili or parsley to garnish
- Rice or pasta prepared according to package directions
- For the optional shrimp stock:
- Shells & heads from 2 lbs. of shrimp
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 pods garlic, crushed
- 3 cloves (or more if desired)
- ⅓ cup celery (include leaves if possible)
- 1 medium carrot, peeled & cut into chunks
- ½ of a medium onion cut into quarters
- 3 sprigs parsley, including stems
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ tsp. black pepper or whole peppercorns
- 5 cups water (or to cover)
- Melt the butter over low heat.
- Add onion & celery and cook for about 5 minutes until soft.
- Sprinkle the flour over the butter and vegetables and cook for a minute.
- Add chili, cinnamon, bay leaf, sugar and vermouth.
- Slowly stir in broth then add tomatoes and simmer for 10 or 15 minutes, covered.
- Add shrimp and cook for several more minutes.
- Garnish with parsley or diced peppers.
- For the Shrimp Stock::
- Add a couple of tablespoons of oil to the pan.
- Add the heads and shells and stir over medium heat until pink, about 10 minutes. They should give off a noticeable aroma. This develops flavor.
- Add water, veg, bay leaf, garlic, and cloves.
- Boil for 30 minutes.
- Strain and reserve.