Cajun Shrimp Chowder
1 pound shrimp, peeled (reserve shells and heads, if you have them, for stock)
3 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (a mixture of spices available in the spice section of most grocery stores)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups shrimp stock or bottled clam juice
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large leek, white part only, cut into half rounds (about 3/4 cup)
1 medium stalk celery, about 3/4 cup diced
1/2 red bell pepper, about 3/4 cup diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
1 cup half and half
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Scallions, chopped (for garnish)
Toss shrimp with 1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning in a small bowl.
Heat a 12-inch saute pan over medium heat. Add butter and swirl to melt. Add shrimp and cook for about 1 1/2 minutes, turn over and cook another minute. The shrimp should be opaque, but not quite cooked through. Remove from heat.
Bring shrimp stock or clam juice to a boil in a small saucepan, add shrimp shells (and heads if you have them), reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain out shrimp shells and heads, and discard.
Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat. Add leeks, celery and bell pepper, and sweat for five minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Stir in flour and cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, for 3 minutes. Whisk in clam juice; be careful, it will thicken quickly.
Stir in half and half and tomato paste. Bring to a light simmer, add shrimp and simmer 1 more minute.
Serve garnished with chopped scallions.