I happened to catch the New Orleans episode of Anthony Bourdain’s “Layover” the other day. Every time I see Louisiana, in general, and New Orleans, in particular, on travel/food shows, I have a longing to visit. I am ashamed to say that I have yet to spend some time there. I love Cajun, creole, southern food. It’s rich. It’s satisfying. It’s the epitome of comfort food.
On the episode, Bourdain visits the Crab Trap in Laplace, Louisiana with Chef Donald Link of Cochon, Cochon Butcher & Herbsaint. At the Crab Trap, which has since closed due to Hurricane Isaac, Bourdain and Link devour a big bowl of barbecue shrimp, among other local crustacean delicacies. But there was just something so right and delicious about those barbecue shrimp. These particular shrimp weren’t barbecued in the way we think of barbecue. These shrimp are big head on Gulf shrimp. They are cooked on a stovetop with butter, Worcestershire sauce, black pepper and spices. Bourdain and Link were gushing over them. I watched the rest of the episode, but I couldn’t get those barbecue shrimp off my mind. It continued for the next two days, until finally I had to do something about these barbecue shrimp thoughts. I contemplated booking a trip right then and there for a visit to New Orleans, but I quickly nixed that idea. I don’t think my wife would have approved. So I did the next best thing, I scoured my cookbook collection for a barbecue shrimp recipe.
Lo and behold, I found one in Emeril Lagasse’s classic cookbook “New New Orleans Cooking”. I’ve always been an Emeril fan since way back. I loved watching him on “Emeril Live” and “Essence of Emeril”. Even though he isn’t a native of New Orleans or Louisiana, he is still synonymous with the food scene there. (He’s actually from Fall River, Massachusetts.) His recipe was a “kicked up” (pun intended) version of barbecue shrimp. As soon as I read the recipe, I decided right then and there that this would be that evening’s dinner.
I jotted down a list of the ingredients. I headed right to the store for the shrimp and a few of the other ingredients I didn’t have in my fridge or pantry. I couldn’t find head on Gulf shrimp, so had to go with what I could find at the fish counter at Whole Foods.
Once I had all the ingredients in my possession it was time to get home and get cooking. The recipe called for a Cajun seasoning. I knew right away that I would use my shaker of Heartbreaking Dawns Storyville Cajun Blend. And I must say it was perfect in this preparation. I removed and reserved the shrimp shells; then seasoned them with the blend and let them chill out in the fridge while I made the barbecue sauce base.
The base took a while to cook down and concentrate the flavors of the ingredients. The base included sautéed onion and garlic, Worcestershire sauce, white wine, water, shrimp shells, bay leaves, lemons, salt, pepper and a bit more of the Storyville Cajun Blend. I brought the mixture to a boil then simmered it for thirty minutes. I strained the liquid into a small pot and boiled it until it was thick and syrupy. The finished liquid was the barbecue base.
It was time high to put the dish together. I heated up a large, shallow pan, grabbed the shrimp from the fridge and added them to hot pan. I sautéed them for a few minutes until they started to turn pink. I then added heavy cream and all of the barbecue base. I let the cream come to a simmer. I was finally just about ready to sample the dish I craved all week. I removed the shrimp to a bowl and whisked in a little butter. BAM! It was time to eat.
I devoured two large bowls of the shrimp. This wasn’t an exact replica of what Bourdain and Link had at the Crab Trap, but it was a darn good substitute. I especially loved the rich cream sauce that accompanied it. I did my fair share of dunking with a few pieces of warm Fairway Market baguette. The shrimp and sauce both had the right amount of heat from the Storyville Cajun Blend. My hunger for barbecue shrimp was successfully satiated. I was a happy man ready for a proper trip to New Orleans.
Here is a link to Emeril Lagasse’s New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/new-orleans-bbq-shrimp-recipe/index.html
Living to eat,
Anthony “Tony Mangia” Scillia