Easy, Breezy Shrimp

If you’re a boat cook with a dinner schedule to keep, try this technique for ahead-of-time prep work that lets you enjoy the fun on deck. People & Food from our September 2011 issue.

August 22, 2011
Shrimp Creole
Shrimp Creole Lynda Morris Childress

I’ve been sailing full-time for three years now as delivery crew, as skipper, with friends, and as crew on long passages. My sailing adventures have taken me along the U.S. East Coast, to Chesapeake Bay, to Long Island Sound, across the Atlantic and South Pacific oceans, and as far as Indonesia and Thailand. No matter who my fellow crewmembers are, all have one thing in common: They enjoy a good meal.

Cooking on board is a pleasurable task for me, even though I didn’t cook on a regular basis before I became a liveaboard sailor. (My mother, an outstanding cook and homemaker, would now be pleased.) However, I dislike being down below when the sun is shining and the breeze is fair, so on nice sailing days, I assemble ingredients in the cockpit to do any necessary prep work ahead of time. I like to have dinner ready before sundown, so generally I begin in midafternoon. Starting the prep early keeps me busy during the lazy hours and sets me outside in the sunshine and fresh breeze rather than consigned to the galley.

Among all the folks with whom I’ve sailed, one of the favorite meals has been shrimp creole, one of my mother’s recipes. There’s plenty of sauce to smother the rice and just enough zip to tingle the palate. To begin to prepare this dish, I tote the cutting board, vegetables, knife, and a pot into the cockpit and chop the onions, green pepper, garlic, and celery. I’m not fast with a knife, but when you’re under way on a nice day, it doesn’t matter in the least! Next, I retrieve the shrimp from the fridge and peel them. If we’re on an ocean passage, shells and odd veggie bits go overboard—no galley mess to clean up! Once these tasks are done, I stow everything in the fridge until I’m ready to start cooking. This way, I present a tasty dinner without keeping hungry crew waiting, and I get to enjoy the daylight hours as well.


With just two sailors on board, this dish makes enough for a second meal. It keeps well either refrigerated or frozen. (Hint: To keep the shrimp plump and moist when reheating as leftovers, remove them and heat the sauce first, adding the shrimp for a minute or two right at the end.) And if you’re cooking for company, this is an attractive and easy meal to share with new friends in the next port.

Mom’s Shrimp Creole

  • 1 1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 1 cup celery, finely chopped
  • 2 medium green peppers, chopped
  • 2 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 15-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 teaspoons parsley, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves, crushed
  • 1 pound cleaned, raw shrimp
  • 4 cups hot cooked rice

Sauté onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic in butter until onion is tender. Remove from heat; stir in tomato sauce, water, and seasonings. Return to heat and bring just to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. (Add more water if needed.) Bring to a boil again and stir in shrimp. Cover and cook over medium-low heat until shrimp are pink and tender, about 5 to 10 minutes. Don’t overcook! Ladle over hot rice. Garnish with fresh parsley, if available. A green salad and crusty bread are nice accompaniments. Serves four.


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