Monday, April 28, 2008

Barbecue shrimp by Ralph Brennan

What would you say if I told you that you could barbecue shrimp on your stove in about five minutes. That’s right, you’d probably laugh and tell me I was nuts. And you’d be correct. So while the New Orleans mainstay known as barbecue shrimp doesn’t have anything to do with wood-smoked meat—like proper barbecue, it’s a spicy, succulent mess of a dish that is best eaten with your hands along with good company and cold beverages.

When Sara Roahen described barbecue shrimp in her book Gumbo Tales, I was intrigued and definitely wanted to make it. Enter Ralph Brennan’s New Orleans Seafood Cookbook. In this exhaustive new tome, the legendary New Orleans restaurateur has collaborated with his executive chef Haley Bittermann, his executive vice president Charlee Williamson, former Times-Picayune food writer Gene Bourg, photographer Kerri McCafferty and recipe tester Paulette Rittenberg to create a definitive cookbook about New Orleans’ seafood cuisine. Ten years in the making, this book is gorgeous enough to sit on your coffee table, but it’s also useful enough to occupy prime real estate in your kitchen as well.

Ralph is a member of the legendary Brennan family, proprietor of New Orleans’ landmarks such as Commander’s Palace, Mr. B’s Bistro, Bacco and Ralph’s on the Park. Yet even though this book’s recipes stem from strong cooking stock, it’s not restaurant specific. Instead it’s a celebration of classic New Orleans dishes such as crawfish etoufee, barbecue shrimp, crawfish pie, gumbos, poor boys, stuffed crabs, trout amandine, beignets, and well, you get the idea. There are 170 recipes in total.

If you’re not well versed in seafood techniques, there is a chapter that shows step-by-step how to buy it, store it, prep it and cook it. The book shows how to fillet a whole fish, remove meat from hard-shell crabs, crack open crawfish, de-vein shrimp and shuck oysters. There are also tips on how to cook more exotic meats such as alligator, turtle and frog legs. Curious what’s the difference between blond and dark chocolate roux? This book will show you. And if you’ve ever wanted to smoke meat inside your kitchen, they’ve included instructions on how to rig a stovetop smoker. Don’t know your ravigote from your remoulade? Not to worry, there’s an extensive glossary of Creole and Acadian food terms.  If you’re curious about the origin of a dish, Bourg introduces each recipe with a bit of history. And if you love beautiful shots of food, McCafferty’s photos are absolutely breathtaking.

If you have any interest in seafood or New Orleans’ cooking I recommend this gorgeous book. Along with Gumbo Tales, it’s another love letter to New Orleans, a place that almost three years after Katrina still needs our support.

Barbecue Shrimp (adapted from Ralph Brennan’s New Orleans Seafood Cookbook)
12 raw colossal (or the largest you can find) Gulf shrimp, unpeeled with heads and tails left on
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic (2 cloves)
1 tablespoon of water
half of 1 lemon, seeded
1/4 pound (1 stick) of unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1. Place the unpeeled shrimp, Worcestershire, spices, garlic and 1 tablespoon of water in a heavy 10-inch sautee pan. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half over the shrimp and add rind and pulp to the pan.
2. Over high heat, cook the shrimp while gently stirring and occasionally turning the shrimp.
After about two minutes of cooking, the shrimp should start turning pink on both sides, indicating they are nearly half cooked.
3. If the shrimp are the colossal size, now add 2 tablespoons water to the pan. Otherwise, don’t add water.
4. Reduce the heat to medium-high and continue cooking as you gradually add the cold pieces of butter to the pan. While stirring the shrimp, swirl the butter pieces until they are incorporated into the pan juices, the sauce turns light brown and creamy as it simmers, and the shrimp are just cooked through. This will take about two minutes total if the shrimp are extra-large and about three minutes if they are colossal.

5. Serve immediately with crusty bread for sopping up the sauce and lots of napkins for cleaning your hands. Makes two servings.
Note: If you can’t find shrimp with the heads on, still be sure and use unpeeled shrimp.

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Tace said...

I love food posts, any blog any time, yours always make me especially hungry. These shrimp are no exception.
I love the name colossal shrimp too, always make me smile. Big small, haha. I am seriously going to try this recipe as soon as I can. ok, enough blathering, insert as much *food adoration, picture drooling from a faithful reader* as you want here. :)

CB said...

Wow, this sounds awesome. I'm headed to NO in a few weeks, and one of the things I'm hoping for is BBQ shrimp at the Gumbo Shoppe. We're also going to have dinner at Commander's Palace while we're there. I might have to try to make this at home once we get back. And I definitely need that book.

Kalyn said...

I ate this in New Orleans in one of those places where they put newspaper under it on the table. Can't remember the name of the place, this was about 10 years ago, but I remember how delicious it was! With bread to dip up the butter of course. (This was very pre-South Beach of course!)

Lydia (The Perfect Pantry) said...

The cookbook looks beautifully designed, and seems to cover all the New Orleans classics. Sounds like a must-have for me!

Cynthia said...

Seriously, you have to control the food porn that takes place here! And the wicked thing about it is that you deliberately taunt us with use giving us a peek and letting our minds do the rest! You're a pro! :)

cdees39 said...

I love me some BBQ shrimp with a good french loaf to go with. Must be a Kangaroo thing.

ann said...

I found some colossal shrimp this weekend too. I put them to radically different use, but boy are they good! I'm not a huge shrimp fan, but these puppies have so much more profound flavor than your regular shrimp. Next time I see them, I'm going to grab some and "barbecue" them. Thanks Lisa!

Blake said...

Is it weird that I want some of this for breakfast? It's not even 8AM, but I'm hankering for some of this "mess." I love getting a big bowl of it, shrimp, yes, but tons of sauce - almost like BBQ soup. Why? Because then you can dip bread all the way to your elbow, and devour the soggy goodness. I have this cookbook, btw. The seared tuna, Uh-mazing!

Jerry said...

Sounds delicious! And the book looks amazing.

Kacie said...

Commander's Palace is fantastic - if you're lucky, Ti Martin and Lally Brennan will stop by your table while you dine. (They are the two women who run the establishment now.) Both women are gracious and very interesting to talk to - and try the chocolate sheba if you go for the Jazz Brunch on Sunday!

Homesick Texan said...

Tace--Colossal makes me smile, too. The bigger the better!

CB--Hope you have a blast--I'm hoping to make it down there soon myself.

Kalyn--Newspaper's a wise move as it's quite a messy dish between the sauce and the shrimp peels. And while the bread is necessary, I reckon to make it more S. Beach friendly it could be whole-grain bread.

Lydia--It is indeed a beautiful book.

Cynthia--Ha! You know me...I'm such a tease!

CDees39--Must be, though we never had anything this good at Slater's.

Ann--Aren't they wonderful? I don't eat shrimp often myself, but this was so easy I could see myself doing it at least once a week.

Blake--You're not weird at all--I can't think of a finer way to begin the day!

Jerry--Yep, it's good stuff and the book is indeed very, very cool.

Kacie--You're making me hungry! I'll definitely have to go to Commander's Palace Jazz Brunch when I go to New Orleans.

Emily Adamson said...

Thanks for the heads up on the cookbook. I just started working for and we have great seafood along with the exotic meats you mentioned - frog legs, alligator, etc. and I'm looking forward to experimenting with some of these (new to me) meats, but it's nice to use tried and true recipes from a good source. I think I'll be safe and start with your shrimp first!

Brave Sir Robin said...

I make bbq shrimp very, very similar to this (Emeril's recipe) and they are just about probably the best thing you will ever put in your mouth.

It is my oldest son's absolute, #1 favorite thing to eat in the whole world.

A big pile of these babies, a baguette, and a cold beer are about as close to heaven as I expect I'll ever get.

Mmmmm, thanks for reminding me how much I love these.

Ginny said...

I make this a lot because my neighbor's son will help me fix my fence, mow my lawn, anything for barbecued shrimp on top of grits. They're from Pennsylvania, but he does love this dish.

Ginny said...

I forgot to mention, I also add a little Tabasco sauce to mine.

Janna said...

Glorious! I am a huge shrimp (and all under the sea type fare) fan!
Thanks for posting this!

Jackie said...

Looooove bbq shrimp! At Pascal's Manale in NOLA, they give you a bib if you order the bbq shrimp. It's a good thing they do, cause it does get messy.

Lyra said...

Ok, I am going to make these. As in, I am going to go buy some shrimp asap, and cook those puppies this weekend if not sooner. Although I think I will probably cut the butter down to 3/4 of a stick. Yes, I know, horrible.

Rich D said...

Great post as always, am loving reading through your archives and making a list of all the things I need to make real TexMex foods, even over here in the UK!

Just wondering if you'll ever grace us with your recipe for making good guacamole.

I already make a pretty good one, but am sure it isnt authentic! (plus the avo's we get over here are very inconsistent)


Texann said...

Girl! Everytime I read your recipes I find myself saying the same thing: Oh! I want to do that!

I have 2 friends celebrating birthdays on Cinco de Mayo. We usually have Tex-Mex with lots of gold ritas. But I think I'll surprise them with this dish. And the cookbook will make a great present.


Mike said...

I see bbq shrimp on many a menu and only have gone that route "didn't happen" for me.

"Sacrelig" isn't right, but it's close. For me, bbq is sliced beef on a sauce soaked bun.

While on the other hand, shrimp is 1) fried golden brown or 2) piled high as freshly caught Shrimp Cocktail and a draft Shiner within arms reach....preferably while overlooking the Gulf.

Babycakes said...

you always have such lovely food on your blog, the kind of food you'd always crave. It's amazing how patient you must be to write all the recipes out

Rachel said...

I just want to tell you that I absolutly love your blog. Im new to food blogging and yours was one of the first to strike my fancy. I was recently nominated for a little blogging award...Blogging with a Purpose and I wanted to let you know that I passed the honor on to you. Check out my blog to see it, and you can pass it along yourself.

Olivia said...

MMm love those big spicy shrimps, especially sucking them before peeling.

Meeta said...

yum! this comes at a perfect time as we've just opened our bbq season here. i love seafood from the grill and this is a simply lovely recipe.

The Pearl Onion said...

I spent a lot of time in New Orleans growing up so not only does this dish just look good, it also has a sense of comfort for me too. Thanks for sharing and I look forward to trying it out myself!

Cody Dennison said...

This post made my day. Kerri McCafferty, her sister and I all went to the High School for Performing and Visual Arts in Houston, Texas. She's been a long time New Orleans habitué and a fabulous photographer. It was nice to find this connection nestled on a great recipe page in your wonderful blog.

Just so you know - your biscuit, pancake and chile con queso recipes are go-to's in our Brooklyn kitchen (Harry our 14mnth old son LOVES the biscuits - he just goes crazy, starts rocking and dancing and screaming out loud).

fyi - Key Food grocery store carries Rotel tomatoes (and Wick Fowler's X-alarm chili kits, amongst other southwestern items).

looking for - Mimi, my grandmother use to make us something she called sweet rolls, which I think was a can of biscuits, each rolled out covered in butter and sugar, rolled up and baked like enchiladas. I tried to duplicate it but I can't get the proportion right... ever heard of a sweet dish like this?

Thank you so much for this blog and all your efforts.

Kristen said...

Oh my... that is one good lookin' breakfast! Can't wait to give this a try.


I made this the other night. Sort of. A similar recipe I guess. It was SO good!

Joe Horn said...

I love your blog. I’ve been here a few times already and thought I would see if you had a shrimp recipe. I just recently posted a recipe that I adapted from “The Spended Table” cookbook and posted it on my blog @ if you would like to come take a look. I love feedback and other cooks opinions for sure.

Thanks and have a great one!


sixfeet said...

oooh, my mama brought me some huge gulf shrimp (heads intact!) on her last visit from louisiana. i've been saving them for something special, and bbq shrimp sounds perfect. i've put them on my meal plan for saturday ... IF i can wait that long! thanks for another winner recipe.

Scott said...

This sounds great. Another great barbeque shrimp recipe can be found in Paul Prudhomme's "Louisiana Kitchen." The first time I made it, I almost ate a whole loaf of bread sopping up the sauce. Since you have to cook it with peels on, I usually make shrimp etoufee the day before so that I can use the peels to make the stock.

Anonymous said...

I cut down to 1/4 stick of butter and it was still amazing, so I can't even imagine how rich a whole stick is!

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