During hurricane season, our house becomes a place of refuge for all of our family members under mandatory evacuation. It’s throughout these nerve-racking times that I’m truly grateful we live outside of New Orleans and are able to provide anyone willing to make the drive this far east with a safe haven. Pre-Katrina, those evacuations meant nothing more than a spontaneous party with our extended family. Post-Katrina, we hesitate using the term “Hurricane Party,” but we do continue to appreciate the fact that those tense weather events bring us all together. And regardless of the severity of the storm or the length of our relatives’ stay, we always eat well! That’s partly because our family brings the contents of their freezers with them (it beats losing everything to power failures) and partly because of the kindness of friends and neighbors.
The last time our family was forced to evacuate was for Hurricane Gustav–Labor Day Weekend 2008. That storm blew seven relatives, one dog and a couple of pet turtles our way. Word of the storm and its impact on our family quickly spread throughout our neighborhood. And before we knew it our, house was full of family, friends and food. Our neighbor Janet brought over a huge bowl of what she called Cran-Raisin Salsa. That picking food ended up comforting our crew for days. The salsa was made with an interesting blend of ingredients that included craisins, jalapenos and pecans. It was delicious scooped onto sturdy, salty chips. Since then, I’ve discovered that while the salsa is good on it’s own, it’s even better poured over a block of cream cheese (my sister’s idea) or atop a wheel of warm Brie. But by far, my favorite way to eat it is with big, juicy Blackened Shrimp. The salsa soothes the tongue from the heat of the blackened seasoning while the spice of the seasoning cuts through the sweetness of the salsa. Yum! The combo is colorful and festive too. Perfect for holiday entertaining!
When preparing this finger food, I like to carry the cranberry theme forward by making a simple Vodka Cranberry cocktail. I drink those in honor of my Aunt Bronnie (short for Bronwyn) who nursed a few during her Gustav visit. If any of you would like to pay homage to my other relatives who weathered that storm with us three long years ago, you can do so with either a glass of Cabernet (my sister), a Bombay Gin Martini (my brother-in-law), a Miller Lite Pony (my grandmother who was 88 at the time) or a porter (my uncle). Cheers!
Until next week …
Blackened Shrimp Recipe
2 pounds large shrimp
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Peel shrimp leaving tails on; devein if desired. Place shrimp in a large resealable plastic bag; set aside. In a small bowl, combine olive oil with remaining ingredients; pour over shrimp. Seal bag; turn to evenly coat shrimp with seasoning mix. In a well-ventilated area, preheat an electric griddle to 400 degrees or a grill pan over high heat. Place shrimp on griddle or grill pan in a single layer about 1-inch apart (cook in batches if necessary). Cook until shrimp are pink and firm on the inside and the seasoning slightly charred on the outside, 2-3 minutes per side. Serve hot or at room temperature. Makes 6-8 appetizer servings.
Craisins Salsa Recipe
3 6-ounce bags original Craisins
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed and chopped
1-2 fresh jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 10-ounce jar cherry jelly or black cherry all-fruit (like Polaner)
1/4 teaspoon salt
Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. The salsa is best when chilled for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve with tortilla chips, poured over a block of cream cheese or warm Brie, or with Blackened Shrimp. Makes about 4 cups.
Vodka Cranberry Cocktail Recipe
5 ounces cranberry juice
2 ounces vodka
Lime wedge (optional)
Pour cranberry juice and vodka into a cocktail glass filled with ice; add juice of one lime wedge. Stir and enjoy! Makes 1 cocktail.