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Shrimp stew is a hearty dish that is richly flavored. There are many different shrimp stew recipes available, and one can concoct original dishes by borrowing the best from different sources. The best recipes call for fresh shrimp that is minimally cooked.
Fresh shrimp may be impossible to find in some areas. Frozen, unshelled raw shrimp are the best substitute. Shrimp cooks very quickly and, for best results, should never be overcooked. The water in the shrimp pot should be rapidly boiling when the shrimp are added. The minute the water returns to a boil, the shrimp should be transferred to a bowl of water and ice to stop the cooking process, and the broth in which they were cooked should be saved for later use.
Finding shrimp in shells is important, because the shells add flavor to the broth. One should saute a minced onion and several garlic cloves in some olive oil, and add that mixture to the broth. The broth should then continue simmering for several hours to concentrate the seafood flavor.
Cajun shrimp stew recipes add roux to the broth. Roux is a mixture of flour and oil that is pan-fried until it darkens. For a rich, deep flavor, one should cook the roux until it is a dark caramel color. Vegetables — such as okra and bell peppers — andouille sausage and crawfish are other Cajun-inspired ingredients that can be added to this stew.
Asian shrimp and fish stew recipes commonly list cilantro, lemongrass and fish paste as ingredients. Some also include vinegar, coconut milk and hot Thai peppers. These stews are generally sour and spicy, and are served with bean sprouts and fresh sprigs of cilantro.
Creamy fish and shrimp stews are less spicy. There may be a touch of fresh ground black pepper in most recipes, but the main focus is on the delicate flavor of the seafood. Scallops, lobster and clams are complementary shellfish that can be added to a creamy shrimp stew. Many cream-based recipes call for a small amount of bacon in the base for flavor. Potatoes, celery and carrots are good vegetables to add to this type of stew.
Cioppino is a spicy Italian-inspired shrimp or seafood stew. The shrimp broth is concentrated, added to a rich tomato base and flavored with garlic, onions and red pepper. Mussels and clams are good additions to a cioppino-inspired stew. Some recipes also add slices of hot Italian sausage.
When I make shrimp stew, I do not skimp on using vegetables. The more variety the better, because they make the stew hardier and enhance the flavor of the shrimp.
Some of my favorite vegetables to use in shrimp stew are tomatoes, carrots, onions, potatoes, celery, squash, corn, and peppers. Sometimes I add a combination of several of these, and sometimes I use them all.
When making shrimp stew with a variety of vegetables, I have found that it is best to hold off using too much spice until the ingredients have cooked together for a while. You run the risk of adding too much if the full flavor of the sauce, vegetables, and shrimp haven't cooked together for a while.
I love to make shrimp stew with a base of tomato juice, lemon juice, and a bit of vinegar. If they combination is too bold, you can mellow it out with a few spoonfuls of sugar. The combination makes a great stew that brings out the flavor of the shrimp perfectly.
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