Posts Tagged ‘shrimp’

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.


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.


Seafood on the grill

July 2, 2010

The 4th of July weekend is staring us full in the face.  Across the land people are planning their picnics and cookouts.

While others may be thinking about chicken, pork, or beef for the grill I’m still in the throes of a seafood obsession.   For those of us located near the coast and a ready supply of fin and shell fish, there are many easy and tasty ways to prepare seafood on the grill.

I’ve already written about charbroiled oysters.

Off the grill and ready to serve

But that is just the beginning.

Many enjoy clams either raw on the half shell or steamed during their summertime picnics.  Why not take some of those well scrubbed steamers and pop them on a hot grill just until they open (approximately 5 minutes, depending upon size).  Put a half dozen or so in a shallow bowl and serve with your favorite hot sauce, some melted butter and or a squeeze of lemon.  Don’t forget the bread to sop up the juices that have collected in the bowl.

Crabs are another summer season delight, but preparing and then picking a bunch of blue claws can be tedious.  Why not grill up a soft-shell or two instead?

Readily available in most seafood markets, soft shells are easily cleaned: snip off the “face” by making a shallow triangular cut spanning the eyes and mouth; remove the apron from the underside; and lift the points of the top shell and remove the lungs from either side of the crab.  That’s all there is to it, but if you want to view a video on the procedure check here. If you are squeamish or unsure about this ask your fishmonger to clean them for you.

Once cleaned and ready to cook, pre-heat your grill.  Brush your crabs with a mixture of olive oil and herbs or softened butter mixed with garlic and herbs and place on the hot grill.  Cook about 4 minutes and then carefully flip and cook another 4 minutes or so.  Remove from grill and serve.  You can eat these as is, dress with tartar or cocktail sauce, serve alongside a fruit and chili pepper salsa or use them in a sandwich.

Crab cakes and soft shell right off the grill

If you’re a crab lover who is not interested in eating the whole beast, make your favorite crab cake recipe and grill them over medium heat instead of frying them.

Calamari lovers can also bypass the frying pan and grill the little critters.  I’ve not tried this yet, but rest assured I will have done it before the summer is out.

 Of course, shrimp can be grilled up for a tasty treat.  One of our favorites is to toss cleaned and peeled jumbo (21-25 per pound) un-cooked shrimp with some olive oil, salt, pepper and a splash of Tabasco brand chipotle pepper sauce. Skewer them and place on a medium hot grill for 6 to 8 minutes, turning halfway through. Remove from heat, dress with a little squeeze of fresh lime juice and serve.  (Black beans and yellow rice are a perfect accompaniment).

 Even the venerable lobster can be prepared on the grill.

  1. Parboil two lobsters, 1 ½ to 2 pounds each in a large pot containing about two gallons of boiling water for about six minutes.
  2. Remove from pot and drain.
  3. Place lobster upside down on cutting board.  Starting from the tail and working towards the head, cut the lobster in half.
  4. Cut a slit in the claw on the side of the shell that will face up during cooking.
  5. Place lobsters shell side down on a grill pre-heated to medium.
  6. Baste lobsters with melted butter or oil.  You can flavor either of these with herbs and spices of your choosing.
  7. When meat at the thickest part of the tail is white and opaque, lobster is done (about 10 minutes).
  8. Remove from grill and enjoy.

Fin fish fans need not feel left out.  Your favorites can be cooked on the grill, too. 

  1. Soak a cedar plank in water for an hour or so.
  2. Lightly oil the top side of the plank and place a piece of salmon filet on it, skin side down.
  3. Salt and pepper the fish lightly, add a pat of butter.
  4. Put the plank on a pre-heated grill. (Medium heat).
  5. Cook until the fish flakes easily and is just turning opaque at the thickest part.

 If you are lucky enough to find a really nice piece of high grade tuna steak at least an inch thick, you can grill it directly on the grill just like a small sirloin or large filet.

  1. Rinse and dry the tuna thoroughly.
  2. Rub with a little olive oil.
  3. Season with salt, pepper and a sprinkling of finely chopped fresh herbs (Italian parsley, oregano and/or thyme are good).
  4. Place on a well oiled grill over high heat for two to three minutes depending upon thickness of the steak. (Check the sides of the fish, it will lighten in color as it cooks and you will want to flip it when it has cooked about 1/3rd of the way through)
  5. Flip fish and cook another two minutes.  Remove from grill and serve.

 This will give you a rare to medium rare piece of fish.  If you insist on cooking it through, leave it on the grill for another minute to a minute and a half.  But no longer!

Grilled tuna steak

 Show a streak of independence and try some seafood on the grill this 4th of July weekend.

Happy Valentine’s Day

February 14, 2010

Shrimp, bubbly and Casablanca

 A warm fire, a classic film, some shrimp and some champagne =  a feast! Sometimes it is the simpler things that make an evening special. A quiet evening relaxing by the fireplace watching a movie calls for food that is simple to prepare and easy to serve from the coffee table.  A bowl of boiled shrimp fits the bill nicely…at least for us.   

Bring four quarts of water to boil in a six or eight quart stock pot.Add one lemon, cut in half, a tablespoon of black peppercorns, two or three bay leaves, and your favorite seafood boil spice mix (Old Bay, Zatarains, etc.) to taste (usually one or two tablespoons of loose spice mix or 1 boiling bag).  Let the spices and water simmer for 10 to 15  minutes. Bring the pot up to a full boil and add a pound to a pound and half of 16/20 or 21/25 shrimp (shrimp are sold by the number per pound.  Here’s a shrimp size chart for reference.)  Start timing as soon as the water comes back to a full boil and cook for no more than four minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let sit for two more minutes.  Test one shrimp for doneness.  If done, the drain the shrimp and place in a bowl for serving.  If not cooked through, give them another minute in the warm water and test again. 

Shrimp can be prepared ahead, drained and chilled for later serving, but they are just a good warm. 

Of course, some cocktail sauce is an almost mandatory condiment.  Mix together 1/4 cup each of catsup, chili sauce, and prepared horseradish.  Add one tablespoon Worcestershire sauce, two tablespoons of fresh squeezed lime or lemon juice, a pinch of salt and Tabasco to taste.  Mix well and chill.  Serve with the shrimp.Slice up a baguette and serve with some sweet butter and pop open a bottle of your favorite sparkling wine.