In honor of Mardi Gras, I decided to whip up a Louisiana favorite: New Orleans-style bbq shrimp. I stopped by Santa Monica Seafood on my way home from work and found some gorgeous wild-caught Louisiana Gulf brown shrimp. If you haven't tried wild shrimp before, you should. They have this distinct sweet, clean flavor unlike farmed shrimp. The other thing that makes gulf shrimp so special is the salinity of the water they live in; tons of fresh water is dumped into the saltwater filled gulf by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers making the waters brackish (not fresh but not salty).
I had my very first bbq shrimp experience at age 9 or 10 during an evening at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse in San Francisco. They served it as an appetizer and then you could use the crusty warm bread on the table to sop up the unbelievably good creole butter sauce. In the years since I've been able to [almost perfectly] replicate the dish at home.
Ruth's Chris BBQ Shrimp
1.5 lbs wild-caught gulf shrimp, cleaned and deveined
1 T olive oil
1/2 bunch of scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chardonnay
1/2 lb unsalted butter
1 t white pepper
1/8 t cayenne pepper
1 t paprika
1 t kosher salt
1/4 t dried rosemary
8 cloves fresh garlic
2 t worcestershire
1.5 t tabasco
1 t water
1. let butter come up to room temperature and then put it into a food processor with the rest of the "bbq butter" ingredients. puree until whipped and smooth. place butter back in fridge to firm up for at least 30 minutes.
2. heat oil in large skillet, then add shrimp (sprinkle them with salt and pepper first). Sear for 1 minute before adding scallions into the pan. Cook another minute. Add white wine and reduce by half. Add all of your cold bbq butter into the pan and stir as it melts. Reduce for 1 minute. The sauce will be thickened and the shrimp perfectly cooked - just make sure you turn the heat off as soon as the sauce thickens so they don't overcook.
3. serve immediately with warm crusty sourdough rolls and/or cheesy grits (see below for recipe).
4 cups whole milk
1 cup coarse corn meal (polenta)
4 oz extra sharp cheddar cheese
2 T unsalted butter
cracked pepper, to taste
kosher salt, to taste
1. Bring milk to a boil (keep a close eye on it) and then slowly add grits while whisking. Continue to whisk until things start to thicken. Reduce heat to a low simmer. Whisk every 3 minutes for 10-15 minutes until creamy and smooth.
2. Finish with butter, cheese, and pepper
3. Serve immediately