Merry Christmas Eve-eve! How are you doing? Getting excited, if you celebrate? Got all your gift wrapping done? Fruit Christmas Tree prepped and ready to assemble? Sorry, couldn’t help myself – I’m still going crazy over that adorable, edible craft.
Anyway, a bottle of sauv blanc is currently chilling in anticipation of tonight’s gift wrapping extravaganza with Ben, then we’ll be free and clear to spend the next 10+ days with family. We’ll celebrate Christmas with my family then Ben’s parents and brothers are coming a few days afterwards to ring in the new year. Bring on the happy holiday madness!
But first, we feast! On Christmas Eve Cajun Shrimp – an IGE-family tradition!
A couple weeks ago I mentioned my family’s tradition of eating Cajun Shrimp on Christmas Eve, which several people asked about, so I thought I’d share the recipe just in time for the holiday.
Actually, eating Cajun Shrimp was a part-time tradition for many years because every other year growing up my family and I would travel to Ohio, where the majority of my extended family lives, for Christmas. My Grandpa was Slovak and his family’s tradition was to serve only white food on Christmas Eve, then a bright and colorful feast on Christmas day.
What did this all-white dinner look like, you might be wondering? Mashed potatoes, bread, and white fish. Specifically perch. I can still taste that perch to this day and, well, let’s just say I wish I didn’t. Loved the sentiment behind the meal, but the intensely fishy flavor? Not so much.
While celebrating Christmas at home every other year with just the five of us was bittersweet – it was nice not having to drive 12 hours, but we missed our Grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins dearly – there was one very large perk: my Mom replaced perch with shrimp baked in salty, spicy Cajun butter for Christmas Eve dinner. Nobody was upset about that swap!
Now, clearly this shrimp isn’t white, thanks to a heavy dash of paprika in the Cajun seasoning, but we were willing to look the other way in the name of deliciousness. Plus the shrimp started out white, right?! We stuck with sourdough bread, though I’ve replaced it with Rice Pilaf to catch that delicious Cajun butter, and keep this dish completely gluten-free.
Whether you make Cajun Shrimp for Christmas Eve, or a succulent and special supper anytime of year, I know you’ll adore this dish as much as we do!
Start by making the homemade Cajun spice blend that will flavor the shrimp and butter. In a small bowl combine 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1/2 teaspoon each salt, garlic powder, and paprika, and pinches of rosemary, oregano, and thyme.
The black and cayenne peppers are what’s going to make this dish spicy so feel free to adjust to fit your tastes. As written, this recipe is about a 6-7/10 on the heat scale (as determined by a self-proclaimed spice wimp!) My Mom always made half the recipe super spicy for my brothers and Dad, and the other half more mild for the two of us.
While you’re mixing the spices, pop two pie pans into the oven with 6 Tablespoons butter each, then set it to preheat to 350 degrees. Once the butter is melted, remove from the oven then stir half the spices into each pan. If you don’t have two pie pans you can use a 9×13″ baking dish.
Next, divvy 1-1/2lbs large shrimp (41-50 count) that have been peeled and deveined between the two pans then stir with a spoon to cover ’em in that luscious, Cajun-spiced butter.
Last step is to pop the pans into the oven to bake for 15 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and plump. Drizzle with fresh lemon juice, if desired, then feast!
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Christmas Eve Cajun Shrimp has been a family tradition for decades. Easy yet absolutely decadent, you'll look forward to eating it all year long.
- 1-1/2lbs large shrimp (41-50 count,) peeled and deveined, tails left on if desired
- 3/4 cup butter
- 1 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper (or more or less)
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more or less)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- pinch dried rosemary leaves, crushed between fingers
- pinch dried thyme leaves, crushed between fingers
- pinch dried oregano leaves, crushed between fingers
- fresh lemon wedges, optional
- Divide butter between two pie pans (or a 9x13" glass baking dish if you don't have two pie pans) then place into oven and set oven to preheat to 350 degrees. Remove pie pans once butter has melted.
- Combine all seasonings in a small dish then stir half into each pie pan with the melted butter. Divide shrimp between pie pans then stir with a spoon to evenly coat with the butter mixture. Bake for 12-16 minutes or until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Serve with fresh lemon wedges, Gluten-free Rice Pilaf (recipe in notes below,) or sourdough bread if not gluten-free.
- Adjust black pepper and cayenne pepper to your spice liking. My Mom always made one mild pan for me and her, and a spicy pan for my Dad and brothers. The recipe as written is around a 6/10 on the spice scale.
- Recipe for Gluten-Free Rice Pilaf: saute 3/4 cup white rice and 1/4 cup gluten-free spaghetti that's been broken into little pieces in a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil for a couple minutes while stirring. Add 2 cloves minced garlic and a dash of salt then saute for 30 seconds. Add 1-1/3 cup gluten-free chicken broth then bring to a boil, place a lid on top, and then reduce heat and simmer until rice is tender, 15 minutes or so.
This recipe is courtesy of Iowa Girl Eats, http://iowagirleats.com.
As I mentioned, my family always served our Cajun Shrimp with sourdough bread but since that’s not gluten-free, I served mine with homemade Rice Pilaf instead. Bonus that it’s easy and (mostly) white! I make this side dish for supper all the time, and it’s perfect for sopping up all that shrimp and Cajun butter. YOW! The recipe is in the Notes section of the recipe card above.
I hope you’ll consider joining us in our Christmas Eve tradition this year, and that you enjoy this Cajun Shrimp as much as we do. Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you! Enjoy your time with family and friends, and I’ll catch you on the flip side!