Susan Robinson enjoys cooking and spending time with her family and friends. While she is a Missouri native, her delicious Christmas menu is distinctive as it features Cajun recipes, with flavors that are popular in Louisiana. She lives in Lee’s Summit and retired from a career in corporate training and development. Her two adult children live in the Kansas City metro area.
Q: How did you learn to cook?
A: My mom taught me to cook and her specialty was baking breads and pies. I grew up in Lexington, Missouri. My mom loved to cook and she was a big fan of the Come Into My Kitchen column in The Kansas City Star. She frequently clipped recipes from the column, and I bet she had 100 recipes from it.
I inherited her love of cooking. I read as many cookbooks as possible, as I enjoy reading them like novels, to see how they are written and discover new ideas. I own about 100 cookbooks. I also take cooking classes at local shops.
I especially enjoy ethnic cooking, so often cook Italian or Mexican dishes. Our Christmas dinner is always Cajun.
Q: How did you begin to prepare Cajun foods for Christmas?
A: My family grew tired of the old, traditional favorites, like turkey and gravy, and wanted a fresh, new, spicy flavor. I discovered a recipe for barbecued shrimp from a Cajun and Creole cookbook and another from a Southern Living cookbook. I combined the recipes and tweaked the flavor to be more to our liking. We liked it so much it became the centerpiece for our Christmas dinner, and we built the menu around it.
We have enjoyed our Cajun dinner each year for about the last 10 years. Now, my son enjoys this menu so much, he prepares the shrimp dish and we gather at his home.
Q: What does your Christmas dinner menu include?
A: In addition to the shrimp dish, the menu includes crab cakes, red beans and rice, and French bread. For dessert, my daughter prepares bread pudding with whiskey sauce. She has tested lots of bread pudding recipes to be sure the recipe she prepares for Christmas is perfect.
Q: What tips do you have for someone learning to cook?
A: I suggest you read cookbooks. You will soon be able to identify ingredients that blend well together and discover which recipes suit your taste and are worth trying.
Q: What suggestions do you have for making your shrimp recipe?
A: I often use frozen shrimp. While fresh is available in our local stores, I think the frozen ones often taste better and you can get the larger size of shrimp needed for this recipe. I do take advantage of the fresh ones when they are especially nice and big.
The shrimp is baked, then served in the shells. Set several small bowls on the table for the discarded shells and offer plenty of napkins. I also give each person a small bowl so they can ladle the butter sauce into the bowl and use it for dunking the shrimp and crusty French bread.
You can increase the butter sauce by half or double it, so you have plenty of butter sauce for dipping. Pass lots of fresh crusty French bread to dunk in the sauce. This recipe is great for casual dinners with family and friends who aren’t shy about licking the goodness off their fingers
Cajun Christmas Baked Shrimp In Butter
1 to 1 1/2 cups butter Note: Use 1 cup (2 sticks) butter if cooking 3 pounds shrimp or 3 sticks of butter if cooking 4 pounds shrimp (do not substitute margarine)
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon dried rosemary leaves, crushed, or 2 large sprigs fresh rosemary
2 medium bay leaves
2 teaspoons Louisiana hot sauce
2 teaspoons sea salt
3 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
3 to 4 pounds jumbo raw shrimp in shells, fresh or frozen, thawed, unpeeled (about 16 to 20 shrimp per pound, preferred)
4 medium lemons
Crusty French bread
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all ingredients, except the shrimp, lemons, and French bread in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the butter is melted.
Place the shrimp in a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Pour the butter sauce over the shrimp. Squeeze the juice from 2 lemons and drizzle the juice over the top of the shrimp. Thinly slice the remaining 2 lemons and arrange the slices over the shrimp.
Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink. Stir occasionally to be sure the shrimp bake evenly. Be careful not to overcook. Serve the shrimp with the butter sauce, at once. Accompany with fresh, crusty French bread to dunk in the sauce.
Roxanne Wyss and Kathy Moore are cookbook authors and food consultants that make up The Electrified Cooks. They have published over 14 cookbooks and thousands of recipes. They are members of Les Dames d’Escoffier and blog at pluggedintocooking.com.