Even though it's not quite full-blown outdoor cooking season, in anticipation of warmer days, I've been dreaming of all things smoky and grilled. One recipe I made this week brings the outdoors in and, despite the name, has nothing to do with classic barbecue. What's even better is that the dish can be made with wild Alaska prawns or side stripes or even true cod or halibut cut into large bite-size pieces.
Pascal's Manale Restaurant in New Orleans might have created barbecue shrimp back in the 1950s, but chef Frank Brigtsen mastered the dish. What you need to know, Brigtsen told me when he was teaching me the recipe, is this: "The dish has nothing to do with a barbecue pit or barbecue sauce. The main ingredients are fresh jumbo shrimp, butter, and finely ground black pepper. The shrimp are usually served shell on for a messy, slurpy, spicy dish."
Brigtsen, owner of the beloved eponymous restaurant in New Orleans, showed me how to make this iconic Louisiana recipe when I was back home for a visit, and I love making it with our local Alaska spot prawns. Originally inspired by Brigtsen's early days cooking at the famous K-Paul's Kitchen around 1980, when chef Paul Prudhomme developed a barbecue shrimp recipe that was cooked to order in a skillet on top of the stove, Brigtsen added fresh rosemary. Here, he also adds dark beer and shrimp stock to create an emulsified sauce, which is rich in butter without tasting oily. If you can, start with fresh, head-on shrimp so that you can make a quick stock with head and shells. Otherwise, use a good-quality, store-bought fish stock. You can also use frozen shrimp or toss in pieces of cod or halibut in place of the shrimp. These are addictive, so consider doubling or tripling the recipe and having lots of crusty warm bread and napkins at the ready.
Makes 2 servings
1 pound fresh, jumbo wild shrimp (10-15 count per pound), such as Alaska spot prawns or large side stripes, preferably head and shell on
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and divided
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon Cajun seasoning or preferably Chef Paul Prudhomme's Seafood Magic seasoning
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons dark beer such as a brown ale or a stout (enjoy the rest while cooking)
1/4 cup shrimp stock (or store-bought fish stock)
Lemon wedges and hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot or Crystal, for garnish
Note: If you're not making your own stock, you can skip step one and cook shrimp with shells on and have guests peel their own at the table.
1. Peel the shrimp, reserving heads and shells for stock; set peeled shrimp aside. If making stock, place shrimp heads and shells in a small pot and add a pinch of salt and just enough cold water to cover shells. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. Strain through a sieve into a bowl and set stock aside.
2. Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat for 1-2 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons butter, rosemary, black pepper and shrimp. Cook just until shrimp turn pink on the outside. Shake the skillet vigorously back and forth, with a push/pull motion, while cooking the shrimp.
3. Add seafood seasoning and garlic and cook, shaking skillet constantly, for 5 seconds. Add Worcestershire and beer. Cook until beer is almost completely evaporated, 15-20 seconds.
4. Add remaining 4 tablespoons butter. Reduce heat to low. Shake skillet vigorously back and forth, with a push/pull motion, just until butter melts into sauce and sauce is emulsified. Serve immediately in shallow bowls with lots of hot French bread for soaking up every last drop of sauce. Serve, if desired, with lemon wedges and hot sauce.
Kim Sunée is the best-selling author of "Trail of Crumbs: Hunger, Love, and the Search for Home" and "A Mouthful of Stars." She worked as a food editor for Time Inc. and has appeared several times as a guest judge on "Iron Chef America." For more food and travel, visit kimsunee.com or instagram.com/kimsunee.