Alicia Rhett, late of our City, played India Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. She was one of a handful of Southerners in the movie. Hers is no put-on Southern accent. She sounds just like most Charlestonians of a certain age and background.
Later in life, Miss Rhett had the indignity of going through a competency hearing with the Probate Court in Charleston as there was some concern by relatives that she could no longer manager her affairs.
During the competency hearing, a hypothetical question was posed to Miss Rhett about how many pieces of cornbread would she need to have to give eight people at least two slices of cornbread at a dinner party.
“My dear,” she replied, “I would never serve company cornbread at dinner.”
I think she was found to have all of her faculties.
And, she was right. Company food had and has a certain meaning.
Shrimp Creole is amazing company food.
Damon Lee Fowler, a noted food author, describes Shrimp Creole as “one of the most neglected classics in the entire repertory of modern Southern cooking.”
In a past post, I mentioned my great-aunt, Marion Heins Peagler, late of Savannah, Georgia. She gave me our family’s go-to receipt for Shrimp Creole. It comes from her great friend Blanche Grundy, also late of Savannah. We called her “Aunt Blanche,” but she was no relation.
I have made Aunt Blanche’s Shrimp Creole for company for years. It’s really great on Christmas Eve – red, green, easy, can make it way ahead. Goes well with Easy Herb Biscuits. Easy clean up, too.
There are receipts for Shrimp Creole that are kind of sweet e.g. Charleston Receipts version. There are receipts that don’t use bacon. What’s the point?
Because someone asked for it, I now share Aunt Blanche’s Shrimp Creole with y’all.
This is EXACTLY how this was told to me by Aunt Marion. She dictated. I wrote.
Don’t be intimidated by the Heinz Chilli Sauce. It works. Don’t go all crazy and use fresh tomatoes, add a ton of garlic, add lemons or Bay leaves or any foolishness like that. Cook it as it’s written. You won’t be disappointed. It’s 20th Century cooking at its best.
Aunt Blanche’s Shrimp Creole
1 yellow onion, chopped fine
1 green bell pepper, chopped fine
3 ribs celery, chopped fine
8 slices bacon, cooked crisp, reserved and crumbled
Drippings from the cooked bacon
1 32 (or so) oz. can diced tomatoes
1 14.5 (or so) oz. can tomato sauce
1 jar Heinz Chilli Sauce
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. fresh cracked pepper
8 drops Tobasco sauce
2 lbs. peeled shrimp [I use large]
2 cups rice, cooked and hot
In a frying pan, cook bacon. Reserve drippings. Saute vegetables in drippings until soft.
[Sorry kids – this is the way I got it – usually takes about 10 mins]
In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the sauteed vegetables and drippings. Add all other ingredients except shrimp, rice, and reserved bacon. Stir well. Cook until it comes together over medium heat.
[Again – not very specific – generally, about 40 mins over medium to medium high heat is good. Want some of the liquid to evaporate]
About five to ten minutes before serving, add the shrimp and cook.
Serve over hot rice with bacon crumbled on top.
I always think it needs more than the eight drops of Tobasco
This really is great Company Food.
But, whatever you do, don’t serve it with cornbread.