I live in the Midwest – meat-and-potatoes land. But this time of year – near Mardi Gras – is when I hear the most talk about Cajun food.
I confess that I didn’t know much about this ethnic group or style of cooking. In my head, Cajun = spicy. But I love to learn new things, and I love to try new recipes, so I did a little research. Here’s what I found out: Cajuns are an ethnic group with French roots and they make up a big part of Louisiana’s population. Their style of cuisine is local, meaning that they utilize meat and vegetables that can be harvested near their homes, and their meals are simple to prepare. You will often hear of Cajun meals with seafood, and side dishes of grains (like rice) and vegetables because that produce is local to southern states.
The reason that Cajun culture is connected with Mardi Gras celebrations (the “anything goes” festivities prior to Lent), is because Mardi Gras originated in medieval France. So, since Cajuns have French history, there is a lot of Mardi Gras celebrating – which includes great Cajun food.
In an effort to get into the celebratory spirit, I put my new found Cajun knowledge to the taste bud-test. I decided to try a new recipe: Spicy Cajun Shrimp. And guess what? I liked it so much, I’m putting New Orleans on my list of places to visit!
Begin heating your grill. If it’s a gas grill, you’ll want it turned to Medium heat. If you’re using charcoal, you’ll know it’s ready when the coals are ash white.
Now prepare the kabob ingredients. Have raw shrimp peeled and deveined. I bought a one-pound bag of shrimp at my local grocer that came like that – genius! Just make sure the shrimp is thawed in advance for easy skewering and even grilling.
Rinse off the lemons and green onion. To prepare the onions, I like to use kitchen shears. Since we’ll be spearing these green onion chunks for grilling, we want the meatiest part of the onion. So, trim off the little roots at the bulb end, and cut off the flimsy, long green part. What’s left in between there is the more substantial part of the onion. Go ahead and cut that remaining portion into three 2-inch sections.
Now slice the lemon. I found it easiest to remove the ends, then cut the lemon in half. That made it really simple to carefully cut thin slices without having the lemon roll around. I also discovered that thinner lemon slices are easier to skewer.
Next, layer the ingredients on the kabob skewers. We have Teflon-coated metal skewers we can throw in the dishwasher and reuse over and over – so handy! But, if you’re going the wooden skewer route, you will want to soak your skewers in water for at least 20 minutes before adding the ingredients. This will prevent the skewers from burning.
Alternate layering shrimp, onion, then a lemon slice. I discovered that the easiest way to skewer the lemon was to press on the edges so it “bows” a little in the middle. Then, slide the skewer through one side of the soft part and out the other. This threading technique kept the slices on the skewer best.
One other tip: We love making kabobs, so in the past we got excited and packed them full. But, if you use long skewers like we did, leave a little empty space at the bottom of the skewer. The heat doesn’t reach that part very well, so the kabobs may be undercooked there. Or, you can leave it on the grill until it’s cooked through, but the rest of your kabob will be over-done.
Now is a good time to recruit your significant other or roommate to finish up the kabobs while you prepare the kickin’ Cajun sauce. But, if you’re preparing these solo, have no fear! The sauce only takes a few minutes to prepare and you’ll be ready to grill. Here’s Ryan, lending a hand.
The Cajun sauce is really simple to prepare. Just grab a 1-quart saucepan and add all of the ingredients: butter, ketchup, dried thyme, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, garlic and ground red pepper. Stir it all together and cook over medium heat until the butter is melted. I used this great little sauce whisk from Ryan’s grandma to make sure all the ingredients were thoroughly combined.
When the butter is completely melted, use a brush to coat the kabobs with Cajun sauce. Then, bring the pan out to the grill.
Grill the kabobs and turn them regularly so they are evenly cooked. All the while, brush them with the sauce. We even whipped up a second batch of sauce to make sure our kabobs were bathed in Cajun flavor!
As you can tell, it was well after dark when our kabobs hit the grill (that’s what you get for grilling during the winter in Minnesota!). If you attempt the same, you’ll need a light in order to check for the shrimp to be cooked. When they are, they turn a nice pink color.
Once the kabobs are cooked through, bring them in and serve them up with New Orleans-style “dirty rice” and steamed veggies. You’ll have a meal with a kick, and you’ll be itching to try more Cajun recipes like I was!
Give this Spicy Cajun Shrimp recipe a try, and make sure to come back and rate and review the recipe.
Come back in a few days when Mallory will share a twist on a classic Mac and Cheese recipe.
Amanda is paid to write for the Land O’Lakes Recipe