We’re sitting in the corner table of a well-known, well-respected restaurant in New Orleans. It’s the kind of place that attracts patrons for all kinds of outings. Business people on serious group lunches and families for birthday parties. Googley-eyed couples for anniversaries and rowdy tourists for day drinking. I’m staring at the three-page black-and-white menu, scanning it over and over and hoping something will jump out at me. Barrett’s already settled on the fried shrimp po-boy; I’m looking for something with a little more green. I see the Shrimp Plate and skim the description, hoping it’ll strike some kind of balance between healthy and indulgent:
“Fried shrimp served with French fries and a vegetable.”
There’s no specific section for “Vegetables” and we have to whisper so the servers don’t mistake our giggle-hush conversation for gossip. “Is it, like, a single roasted carrot? A solitary forkful of green beans? A turnip?”
The truth is bright fresh vegetables – plural – are hard to find on many of the more traditional menus here in New Orleans, even in the more bountiful summer months. I hadn’t noticed it when I was growing up here. Kind of like how I didn’t know that kids in other parts of the country didn’t get a week off for Mardi Gras Break or that walking with an open beer through the middle of your college campus was in violation of something called an open container law. There are just some things you’re not as attuned to when you grow up in this weirdo part of the US and vegetables, for me, was one of them.
But there’s a flip side to all of this. Growing up here, I’d also taken for granted the seafood that can be found in these parts. Fat Gulf shrimp, bright red boiled crawfish, plump salty oysters, fish of a hundred different types, caught fresh, served fresh, available every damn day.
So today’s recipe is, in some ways, an “I’m sorry for that.” I’m sorry for being a Portland-y vegetable snob these days, New Orleans, and I’m even sorrier for not cherishing every bite of your seafood bounty when I lived here in the first two decades of life. You are beautiful and special and if I could eat your wetland bounty prepared Louisiana-style every single day, preferably alongside a plurality of crisp greens, I would.
But since most of the time I can’t, and maybe you can’t, here’s a recipe for my absolute favorite dish to be found on menus across the city – New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp. This isn’t what you’d probably think of when you hear the word “BBQ.” These shrimp are served wet, not dry, cooked in a savory mixture of butter and Worcestershire sauce and rosemary. I season mine with a heavy, heavy dose of Tabasco Garlic Sauce for that ultra-special Louisiana kick and serve them the classic way, with enough French bread for sopping up the juices. It’s simple enough to come together in less than 30 minutes, rich enough to be served at your holiday table, and Louisiana enough that I’ll never forget again how much I love and adore the seafood here.
Just promise me two things if you make this dish, okay? Promise me you’ll (1) Put on an additional layer of emotional armor when you look at the quantity of butter I call for below and (2) B.Y.O.V. (Bring your own veg.)
This post was sponsored by my fellow Louisianan friends over at Tabasco. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
- 1 pound of unsalted butter, 4 sticks, divided into 2 tablespoons and the remaining
- 1 shallot, chopped finely
- 5 cloves of garlic, minced
- ½ cup of Worcestershire sauce
- ½ lemon, juice only
- 1 tablespoon of fresh cracked pepper
- 1 tablespoon of seasoned salt, such as Lowry’s
- 1-1/2 tablespoons of Tabasco Garlic Louisiana Hot Sauce*
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary, about 4-5 sprigs
- 2 pounds of shrimp, heads and shells still on*
- French bread or po-boy bread, for dipping
- Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat. Once melted, add shallot and garlic, continuing to cook over medium-low until shallot is translucent, about 8 minutes.
- Add Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, black pepper, seasoned salt, Tabasco Garlic hot sauce, bay leaves, and rosemary, stirring to combine. Whisk in remaining butter, two tablespoons at a time, until it’s fully melted and incorporated into the sauce.
- Add shrimp (keeping the shells on), cover and cook until shrimp are just cooked through and have turned pink, about 5-6 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp—they should be removed just when all of the shells have turned pink. Remove the bay leaves and spoon several shrimp into each bowl, along with a few spoonfuls of the sauce. Serve alongside fresh French bread or po-boy bread for dipping.
I call for shrimp with their shells and heads on because that's how this dish is traditionally served. It makes for a richer, more cohesive sauce, too, since all of the shrimp shell flavor (and insides) seep into the sauce while it cooks. If you can't find shrimp with the heads still on, or you're just really weirded out by the heads as some people are (no judgement), second best option is to buy the shrimp with heads removed but shells on.