Posts Tagged ‘Barbecue’

Memories and taste

April 7, 2013

After I graduated from college, I stayed in the greater St. Louis area for a couple of years. As was our custom, my roommate and I would treat each other to a night out for our birthdays (which happened to be just 10 days apart).

It was around this time that I really started developing my fascination with all things New Orléans: the music and the food especially. So for my birthday, we went to a place called Bobby’s Creole (now gone, I believe).

One of the specials on the blackboard that evening was “BBQ Shrimp.”  I’ve always been a shrimp lover and I’m fond of BBQ. What could be wrong?

When my entrée came out I was just slightly surprised. Instead of a plate, I was delivered a bowl of the sort in which you might be served pasta or a soup.  In the bowl were two of the largest shrimp I had ever seen. (These were probably U10’s meaning there were under 10 shrimp to a pound with an average being about five per pound or each shrimp weighing just over three ounces).

The shrimp were headless, but in the shell. They were also sitting in a clear, mahogany colored sauce and resting on a sediment of what turned out to be herbs and spices. On the side was a plate of crusty baguette.

While not what I had envisioned, I was game to try this dish and I am forever grateful that I did!

The only way to eat the shrimp was to pick them up and peel them with my hands. Once the shells were off, I was free to dip the shrimp in the sauce, nibble a bite and repeat.

The sauce was a butter-laden broth with a rich, herbal flavor and just the right amount of cayenne induced heat.

When the shrimp were gone, the bread was used for sopping up the remaining sauce. EXCELLENT!

A memorable meal with a great friend and a great experience.

***

Several years later, acknowledging my growing fascination with New Orléans/Louisiana culture, food and music, my sistCCCookbooker gave me a copy of Terry Thompson’s Cajun – Creole Cooking cookbook for Christmas. In that book was a recipe for “Peppered Shrimp” that struck a familiar chord when I read it.

Sure enough, the first time I made that dish and tasted it my mind flashed back to my meal at Bobby’s Creole in University City, St. Louis County, Missouri. I’d found it! I’d found a way to make that dish I had enjoyed so much.

It should be noted that there was not yet an internet; no Google; no Ask Jeeves, etc. to help with research.

***

When I finally got to New Orleans, it was about a decade or so after my introduction to BBQ (or, more often, Barbeque) Shrimp. My wife and I met my former roommate and his wife in the Crescent City for a long weekend. Of the many places we ate, we had dinner one night at the Chez Helene outpost in the French Quarter.

Chez Helene was a long time, local favorite restaurant that had received some notice as being the inspiration for Chez Louisiane in the Tim Reid/Hugh Wilson TV sitcom Frank’s PlaceIn the wake of the show’s short but very popular run, the French Quarter location was opened in an attempt to capture some of the tourist trade that didn’t want to be bothered to travel to the original location downtown on N. Robertson St.

So it was that we, as “tourists”, wandered into Chez Helene for dinner. Our order was easy for our server…the women ordered the Shrimp Creole, the men the Barbeque Shrimp. The rendition was quite good. Messy and rich, but not as hot as the Shrimp Creole (a fact we still laugh about today).

***

Over the years, I’ve made this dish for company, family or just the two of us. It was once the subject of a friendly dinner competition between a former employer and myself. I’ve also eaten it on subsequent trips to New Orléans (at Mr. B’s Bistro, for one place). The now defunct Penny’s Ribs restaurant here in Trenton had a passable version as a special menu item. It remains a favorite.

It always comes to mind around Mardi Gras, my birthday or when I’m dreaming of or recovering from a trip to New Orléans (as we just recently made over Easter weekend).

For the sake of gentility and ease of consumption, we sometimes prepare this with shelled, deveined shrimp. However, this dish is at its absolute best madewith shell-on and, when available, head-on shrimp. Regardless, good bread to sop up the juice is required. Add a salad and some white wine for a pleasing, if messy, meal.

BBQShrimp

New Orléans style BBQ Shrimp

  • 1 cup of butter
  • 1/2 cup of shrimp stock or bottled clam juice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • juice of one lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh rosemary
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh basil
  • 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 tablespoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon good smoked paprika
  • 1/2 to 1 teaspoon (or more if you like) cayenne pepper
  • 2 pounds, shell-on (head-on, if available) shrimp. (NOTE: you don’t want anything smaller than “large” shrimp that run about 31 – 35 per pound. You can go as large as you like/can find, but we generally prefer the “jumbo” or “extra jumbo” that are 21 – 25 or 16 – 20 shrimp per pound respectively).

Rinse shrimp under cold running water and set aside to drain.

In a large, wide skillet or heavy dutch oven type pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the stock, wine and lemon juice and let come up to a simmer.  Add the herbs and spices, stir and simmer for about 20 minutes. The sauce should turn a lovely mahogany color and give off a very appetizing aroma.

Toss in the shrimp and stir to coat with the sauce. Let cook for 10 – 12 minutes over medium heat until all the shrimp have turned a lovely pink and have curled slightly.  Spoon into bowls with some of the sauce. Serve with good, crusty bread, a salad and some of the white wine.

Serves 2 – 4 people.

A brisket for all seasons

February 19, 2013

BrisketSand1

Who doesn’t love beef brisket?

Here on the East Coast, most people know and like it brined (corned beef). In Texas, it is a prime cut for long slow cooking (smoked). And then, of course, the ultimate brined and smoked brisket that is steamed (pastrami).

Years ago during one of our trips to New Orleans, we dined at Tujague’s. Reportedly the second oldest restaurant in a city known for all levels of dining, Tujague’s is more of a local favorite than a “tourists must visit” kind of place. It is not often written about in the foodie mags. It is, in its own way, a classic and one that in my opinion is worth seeking out.

One of the house specialties at Tujague’s is their “boiled brisket.” Nothing could be more humble in name yet more superlative in flavor.

Sometime after that trip, I discovered, on the restaurant’s website, their recipe for this dish. Since that time, I have made this brisket at least once year, usually served with latkes as part of my Hanukkah celebration honoring the Jewish part of my heritage. It amuses me that I prepare a New Orleans Creole brisket recipe to celebrate Hanukkah. This provides a rare opportunity for me to combine my love of New Orleans, my French (my maternal great-great-grandparents entered this country at the port of New Orleans) and my Jewish family.

Recently, I had been overtaken by a strong craving for the brisket and so we purchased a seven pounder from the local BJ’s and I cooked it up for Sunday dinner with friends.

Preparing for our trip next month, yesterday I happened to be checking NOLA.com, the website of the New Orleans Times Picayune. In one of those quirky little coincidences,. I came across a story about the passing of one Steven Latter, the proprietor of Tujague’s It was interesting to read about how he and his brother took over the restaurant without any real food service experience and preserved this treasure.  Mr. Slatter (who, by the way, was Jewish) eventually bought his brother out to become the sole owner. Reading about him made me a little sad that I hadn’t actually met him as I think we might have enjoyed each other’s company.

I read the story and was contemplating what it might mean for the future of the restaurant. Sometimes, owners can be more than just the “boss” at a restaurant; they may provide the very soul of the establishment. As I mused on this, I noticed a link to a story from last year that talked about how great the “brisket sandwich” was. The sandwich was basically a roast beef poor boy/po’boy (the New Orleans version of a “hoagie” or “sub”) made with the house brisket and available only at the bar.

Aha!  Now I knew what I would do with some of the leftovers from Sunday’s brisket.

This noon, I ran out to Italian Peoples’ Bakery and picked up a loaf of their stick bread.

Back home, I made the sandwich and I was not disappointed.

Thank you, Mr. Slatter, for keeping Tujague’s traditions. 

 BrisketSand2

Boiled Brisket Po’ Boy

  • 12” length of good French or Italian stick bread sliced almost but not quite all the way through and opened up.
  • 5 ounces of leftover boiled brisket (see recipe below) warmed, slightly
  • Chopped lettuce
  • Fresh tomato slices
  • 2 Tbs Creole mustard (or dark, coarse grained mustard)
  • 2 Tbs mayonnaise
  • 2 Tbs prepared horseradish (or two taste)

“Dress” the bread with the mustard, mayo and horseradish. Add slices of tomato in one layer, then a light layer of lettuce. Cover evenly with slices of brisket (I warmed mine for one minute in the microwave). Close bread, using back edge of long knife to kind of stuff the filling back in while pressing down on the top of the bread with the palm of your free hand. Cut into two lengths and enjoy.  (I ate this myself but it would probably feed two normal people)

Boiled Brisket ala Tujague’s

  • Fresh beef brisket (about 4 pounds)
  • 2 onions sliced
  • 2 ribs celery chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 3 bay leaves
  • ½ tbs. salt
  • 12 whole black peppercorns

Put the beef brisket in a coup pot, having trimmed excess fat. Add the onions, celery, garlic, parsley, bay leaves, salt, and peppercorns. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer slowly for 2 ½ to 3 hours or until brisket is very tender. When the brisket is ready, remove it form the pot, drain, and slice to serve. Serve brisket with horseradish sauce on the side.

Horseradish sauce

  • ½ cup horseradish
  • ½ cup Creole mustard
  • 1 cup Catsup.

Blend and chill.