When I fell in love with the shrimp soup at Mama's Cajun Cuisine, I knew just where to go to get a recipe. Cooking up a Storm: Recipes Lost and Found from The Times-Picayune of New Orleans is one of the most well-thumbed cookbooks on my bookshelf. This instant classic, written by Times-Picayune food editor Judy Walker and veteran cookbook author Marcelle Bienvenu, was nominated for a James Beard cookbook award last year.
The book got started after Katrina when Judy Walker found herself fielding endless calls from folks who had lost their recipe collections. Readers asked Walker to supply them with recipes for New Orleans dishes that had appeared in the newspaper over the years. So Walker started a project in the paper she called "Rebuilding New Orleans Recipe by Recipe." She posted reader's recipes and reader's requests for recipes, and searched the paper's archives. She printed her findings weekly in a column called "Exchange Alley."
Legend has it that it was the touching request of one elderly reader who lost her home and ended up badly injured that got the book started. Judy Laine begged Walker to put these painstakingly recreated recipes into a book.
The result is the mother of all community cookbooks -- a remarkable collection of treasured recipes from one of America's top food cities.
The recipe for Mrs. Francis Toomy's Corn and Shrimp Chowder, adapted from Cooking Up a Storm, after the jump.
Mrs. Toomy's 1960s vintage recipe called for the soup to be cooked for an additional 30 minutes after adding the shrimp, which sounded a little excessive by modern standards, so I tweaked the process. I also added the step of making shrimp stock -- the original recipe called for fish stock or water.
3 pounds heads-on shrimp Stick of butter Half cup chopped green onions, plus enough to garnish Half cup chopped celery Half cup chopped green peppers Half cup chopped parsley One-and-a-half cups fresh corn kernels One 17-ounce can creamed corn Half teaspoon Worchestershire sauce Dash of nutmeg Salt and pepper to taste
Remove the shells and heads from the shrimp and combine these with four cups of water in a stock pot, bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Place the cleaned shrimp in the refrigerator. As you chop the vegetables, toss the trimmings into the stock pot. Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium heat and add the green onions, celery, peppers and parsley, stirring until the vegetables are softened. Add the corn and cook over low heat. Strain the stock several times to remove any bits of shell and add the stock to the shrimp and vegetables, stirring to combine, and simmer for ten to 15 minutes, until thickened. Stir in the cleaned shrimp and cook for a few minutes until they turn translucent and begin to curl. Serve immediately with chopped green onion garnish.