Spicy, garlicky sauce cries out for dunkable bread
If there were a “truth in advertising” law for recipes, this one would get busted. Because New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp isn’t really barbecue at all. And shrimp don’t even play the leading role. Instead, it’s the sauce you’re after—a butter-heavy dunking mix that’s liberally spiced (and delightfully seasoned with garlic). You’ll want to mop up every last drop with crusty French bread.
Given the amount of butter in the sauce, this dish clearly is no diet food. But did you really expect it to be, with “New Orleans” in the name? That part, at least, is for real.
Recipe: New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp
Technically, the word “barbecue” refers to long, slow cooking over a smoky wood fire. So this dish clearly falls short. But who cares when the flavor is so outstanding?
Restaurant versions of this dish usually feature huge, head-on unshelled shrimp (sized about 9 to 11 to the pound). Restaurants typically bake the dish in a butter sauce in the oven, generally in large quantities. For home cooks, this approach is a bit impractical. Instead, it’s easier for us to make this dish on top of the stove—especially since it cooks quickly (and we’re not preparing enough to feed a restaurant full of people). And although those big head-on shrimp contribute lots of fat and flavor, most of us just don’t have access to shrimp that size. For us, it’s easier to use headless tail-on shrimp in the 21/25 size range (i.e., 21 to 25 shrimp per pound).
This dish originated at Pascal’s Manale Restaurant sometime in the 1950s (today you can find it at many other New Orleans restaurants as well). My recipe for New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp has changed quite a bit over the years as I have adopted and discarded ideas from various sources. The version I discuss here is heavily influenced by the original Pascal’s Manale rendition—which Mark DeFelice, the restaurant’s current chef, describes in this video.
Prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes, with cooking time of perhaps another 10 minutes or so.
You can serve New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp as either a first-course or a main dish. This recipe yields 4 to 6 first-course servings, or about 2 hearty main-dish servings.
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (for the first stage of cooking; you’ll be adding more later)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 - 3 cloves garlic, finely minced (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce (like Tobacco or Crystal; after you make this dish once, you may decide you want to use more)
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon Cajun or Creole seasoning (I use my own blend—you can find the recipe in my prior post on Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo; or use a commercial blend)
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced (optional, but tasty)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- ¾ cup white wine or dry vermouth
- 1 pound white shrimp, size 21/25, shelled and deveined but with the tail unshelled (thaw in the refrigerator overnight if frozen; see Notes)
- salt to taste
- 1 additional stick unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 8 tablespoon-sized pieces
- minced parsley or scallions for garnish
- French or Italian-style bread (for this dish, I like a somewhat softer crust, so I often use an Italian-style bread)
- Assemble all the ingredients and do the prep work: Mince the garlic and rosemary, measure out the spices and other ingredients, have the shrimp at the ready, cut the stick of butter into chunks, wash and mince the parsley or scallion garnish.
- Heat a 12-inch frying pan on a medium-hot stovetop. Once heated, add 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When these ingredients are hot (they’ll bubble and sizzle), add the garlic and cook for 2 minutes.
- Add the hot sauce, ground pepper, Cajun/Creole seasoning, paprika, rosemary (if using), Worcestershire sauce, and white wine or dry vermouth. Stir to incorporate all ingredients, then simmer for 3 or 4 minutes.
- Add the shrimp. Simmer the shrimp until they’re cooked through (about 4 minutes), flipping them once or twice during the process.
- Reduce the heat to low, taste the sauce, and add salt to taste. Quickly stir in the stick of butter a tablespoon at a time, forming an emulsion.
- Divide the cooked shrimp among deep serving bowls (such as soup dishes), then pour the sauce over them. Garnish with parsley or scallions, and serve with hearty bread. And lots of napkins.
- In many parts of the country, “fresh” shrimp actually arrive at the market in a frozen state. So I usually just skip the “fresh” ones and buy frozen. Shrimp often are higher quality anyway if they’re IQF (individually quick frozen). IQF shrimp are “blast frozen” soon after they’ve been harvested, so most of their flavor remains intact. For this dish, I suggest buying frozen, deveined shrimp that have been shelled (except for the tail portion).
- I thaw frozen shrimp overnight in the refrigerator. For this dish, you can add them to the frying pan (Step 4) while the shrimp are still frozen, but they'll take about twice as long to cook.
- If you’re using fresh shrimp, you’ll probably want to devein them (the dark line that runs along the top of each shrimp is its intestinal tract, or “vein”). If you’re buying fresh shrimp, I assume you know how to deal with them, but here’s a brief recap of the procedure (I always buy fresh shrimp in the shell, with the heads attached): First, pull off the head and legs. Then, starting at the end where the head was, pull off the outer shell (I usually leave the bit at the tail end attached). To devein, I use a small knife and cut a slit down the shrimp’s back, maybe ¼ inch deep. Then I use the knife to remove the vein.
- If at all possible, buy shrimp that were harvested from the Gulf of Mexico. They have the best flavor, IMO.
- Most people will find this dish a little spicy (but not too much so). You can adjust the spicing to your preference.
- Rumor says this dish originally was made with margarine rather than butter. Forget that—use butter.
- Speaking of butter, this dish uses a lot. You can cut the amount you use in Step 5 in half (4 tablespoons instead of 8), but you’ll lose some flavor. (And you'll need to reduce the amount of seasoning a bit so you don't get the sauce too spicy.)
- If you’re ever in New Orleans, do try this dish at Pascal’s Manale restaurant. It’s worth the visit. The restaurant was founded in 1913 by Frank Manale and was staffed mostly by members of the Manale family, including Frank’s nephew, Pascal Radosta. When Frank Manale died in 1937, Pascal took over sole management. Later on, Pascal decided to add his name to the establishment, but kept the Manale part to honor his uncle—hence the name Pascal’s Manale. Pascal died in 1958, but the restaurant is still in family hands. Currently, it’s run by Virginia DeFelice, Pascal’s youngest daughter.
“Wow,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This sauce can’t be beat.”
“It’s wonderful,” I agreed, dunking a hunk of bread. “And very rich.”
“Yeah, when I first saw the recipe, I thought maybe there was a typo,” said Mrs K R.
“Why, because there was no barbecue in the dish?” I asked.
“No, because it called for 10 tablespoons of butter,” said Mrs K R. “Also known as 1¼ sticks. For a mere pound of shrimp.”
“So, were you planning to correct me, Madame Editor?”
“Nah,” she said. “You know what the tabloids say. Some stories are just too good to check.”
You may also enjoy reading about:
Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
Red Beans and Rice
Scallops on Artichoke Scoops
Fennel Soup with Shrimp and Beans
Or check out the index for more recipes