My BBQ Shrimp recipe in a love letter to America

bbq-shrimpI always start writing a post thinking it’s going to be short and sweet and I end up writing a novel. So please bare with me. This one is largely inspired by an old post of mine…

One of my most loyal readers from Phoenix, mentioned yesterday how amazing her dad’s BBQ was and that she used to live in NOLA. I mentioned my love of American BBQ (yet again) and we came to reminisce about a very special dish. Something really delicious, buttery and over the top extravagant! My absolute favorite dish from New Orleans: Brennan’s (kind of) BBQ shrimp.

Not a French recipe I know, but when it comes to New Orleans, the line is quite easy to cross…

I lived and worked in New Orleans between 1999 and 2002. My apartment took the top half of the red brick building (in the picture below) at the corner of Royal Street and Dumaine. Some of he photos (please excuse their poor quality) were taken from my balcony, including the one of the Mardi Gras parade. Those few years living in Louisiana were some of the most enchanting of my life. I had a crazy recovering alcoholic boss who really enjoyed making me feel like a complete loser every chance she got. I got used to her abuse and she got better over time, but it sure took her a long F…..g time to let go and let God as they say. So that was the bad side of my time in New Orleans. But the good things were so good that it made all the rest seem absolutely insignificant in comparison. The music, the architecture, the landscape, the wildlife, the river, the history, the colorful characters, the antique shops, and of course the foooooooood! New orleans is a paradise in almost every way possible. It really is full of heart and soul. I could talk about it for days… If you don’t fall in love with New Orleans (I’ll exclude most of Bourbon Street), there truly is something wrong with you. And like I’ll never trust someone who doesn’t enjoy food or someone who doesn’t laugh to tears, i wouldn’t trust someone who doesn’t like Louisiana… Damn, did I just lose a thousand followers?!bbq-shrimp-new-orleans-louisianabbq-shrimp-new-orleans-louisianabbq-shrimp-new-orleans-louisiana

Europeans can say what they want, the more i think about it, the more I realize that if I love America so much, it is because of it’s absolute, uncompromised authenticity. Even when it’s fake, it’s exactly what fake should be. And so New york is noisy and excessive and sexy and smart. You’d think you could just bump into Sarah Jessica Parker or Jacky O at any time (well you’ll walk through Jacky O technically I guess). Illinois has those incredible red barns and white farm houses and the honest, hard working people you’d expect to find in the Midwest. California is always sunny and people are “cool” and open and beautiful dude. Georgia is soulful and woody and green and warm in every way. New Orleans is dark and light and hot and sweaty and slow y’all :0) Or is it allyall? Can’t remember…bbq-shrimp-new-orleans-louisianaThat’s a picture of mom and I in the bayou as we were going to buy shrimp one day. She came to spend a month with me every year (yes, I’m an angel I know). She is now 85 and still talks about our seafood dinners…BBQ-shrimp-new-orleans

There is nothing fake or half assed about America. Whatever americans believe in, they believe in it 100%. Whatever they try, they give their whole selves to it and whatever/whoever they love, they love unconditionally and excessively. The country is bigger than life, diverse and generous… A perfect reflection of its people. My only wish is that more Americans took time to travel and get to experience and love other lands and cultures the way I understand and love theirs…

I left the States 10 years ago and went back last year for a two week vacation at my friend Melanie’s home in Miami. The first thing I wanted to eat (more like feast on) was BBQ!!

In New Orleans I was a free single man in the original sin city. And boy did I commit a lot of sins there. Gluttony was my favorite sin to indulge in. But then again, gluttony isn’t really considered a sin by French people. We call it “gourmandise” and always refer to it as a quality. But I guess we see most sins as qualities in France… Of course there is one major difference in the way we give ourselves body and soul to this wonderful sin: the word “gourmandise” implies that you consciously enjoy your food and respect it. It has less to do with quantity and more to do with quality and the enlivenment (is that a word?) of one’s senses. A “gourmand” simply is a true foodie. The word gluttony to me feels like it’s just about excess and self indulgence regardless of what’s being eaten. A glutton will enter one of those hot dog eating contests. A gourmand will enter the most romantic pastry shop he/she can find and pick 10 small cakes rather than a large one, because he/she wants to enjoy as many different tastes as possible. A glutton will tell you how many hot dogs he can gulp in under 60 seconds. A gourmand will tell you which chocolate eclair was the best and what his next dream “food affair” would look and feel like. A glutton wants to fill his stomach. A gourmand wants to feed his soul.

And yet gourmandise and gluttony are considered the same sin. Go figure… We got lost in translation I guess. OK, all this to tell you how much I indulged when I lived in New Orleans…

Oh you guys, the incredible shrimp bought directly from the fishermen’s little wooden stands on the side of a road along the Mississippi. The soft shell crabs; the jazz brunches; the barbecue shrimp at Brennan’s… Oh! Oh! And the fried chicken and catfish…BBQ-shrimp-new-orleans

So here we go. It’s the Brennan recipe for BBQ shrimp except for the amount of butter, the shallot and the type of beer I use. These variations came from a dear dear friend of mine. We worked together at the Ritz on Canal Street. She was a housekeeper, about 60 years old then, and a TRUE born and bred New Orlean. Her name was Miss Catherine. Did I not promise authenticity?!BBQ-shrimp

There are so many different and delicious recipes for this dish. Here is mine. It will serve 1 foodie or 2 boring people or 2 foodies who are just trying to take is slow before the holidays:

  1. Lay 8 super fresh prawns into a dry pan with one chopped shallot. They need to be large, raw and with their shell and head still on. As with any shrimp dish, all the goodness comes from inside the heads!
  2. Add half a can of Guinness beer
  3. Add 2 tablespoons of Worcester sauce, 2 full teaspoons of creole seasoning (click here for recipe), 2 teaspoons of black pepper
  4. Add the rest of the beer, one teaspoon or fresh garlic, half a lemon juice
  5. Dump the half lemon you squeezed into the pan as well. The skin is full of that incredibly flavorful natural oil
  6. Turn the shrimp over and let simmer for 30 seconds Press on each head with a fork to get the juices and fat out. Most of the flavor comes from there
  7. Take the shrimp out. The last thing you want is to overcook them! Even a large shrimp doesn’t take more than 2 to three minutes to cook. My rule of thumb is: keep cooking them 1 minute on each side after they turn pink (which they do almost right away)
  8. Turn the heat down
  9. Add two tablespoons of soft butter and corn starch mixed together (about half/half) to the sauce and stir. The sauce will thicken right away. The original recipe requires about 3 sticks of butter (200 grams?) for 6 to 8 shrimp.
  10. Put the shrimp back in for a few seconds to warm them back up
  11. Serve right away with a LOT of fresh baguette

BBQ-shrimpTwo reasons why use corn starch and butter instead of just butter:
One: we are foodies not complete psychos. Using some starch allows you to use less butter. I remember watching that Paula Deen woman deep frying butter once. First that looks disgusting and second it’s completely irresponsible (that perfectly shows the difference between gluttony and gourmandise)
Two: it’s so much easier to thicken a sauce with corn starch than it is with plain butter

As I remember it, the sauce in the Brennan’s dish is thinner than mine, but I feel that a sauce should somewhat stick to the bread; have some body to it. Otherwise it’s just a jus…

69 Comments Add yours

  1. chef mimi says:

    Paula Deen deep fried in butter? Jesus. That’s psycho! Lovely post.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Yes, look at her frying cheesecake: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=42oUVwyFsZI

  2. lisa622014 says:

    Love reading your blog

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thank you Lisa!

  3. Barbara says:

    Oh my. Soooooo delicious looking! I must try this. However for two I will at least double the number of shrimp – shrimp, bread, and wine are all we’ll feast on! So I would double everything, yes? Luckily I live in the Pacific Northwest where I can get very fresh seafood year round. Thank you for this recipe!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Hi Barbara. Yes, double everything except maybe the amount of butter… You’ll just have to try. As you know, good/authentic recipes have little to do with exact math and science. It is about instinct!! Have fun and enjoy!

  4. Love your post. You’ve sold me on Louisianna but you already had me at shrimp (or should I say prawns). From one gourmand to another – well done!

  5. Farmgirl says:

    Oh, my beautiful friend, THANK YOU for posting this recipe. In 2003 Doug and I headed down to New Orleans for the first part of our honeymoon. We accidentally went during Mardi Gras and didn’t really want to take part in it. I was disappointed that I didn’t get to see the French Quarter (an excuse to go back) but we did see many great things. We had a taxi driver that we would call direct and he would take us around the traffic to wonderful places. The Audubon Zoo was the best we have ever seen. The other highlight was a little restaurant on the wharf where I had the best BBQ shrimp I have ever tasted. Nothing compares to it. Nothing. Such a beautiful memory, thank you for this recipe. We love Guiness too so what a great addition!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I am using beer more often in my recipes. It really adds something special to any traditional dish. One of my old favorites is Pommes de Terre Boulangère. It is more of a Winter thing, so I’ll share it when it gets colder in November or December. Anyway, YES, New Orleans is a great city, but one should definitely avoid mardi gras 😉

  6. Love this post. Thank you for sharing. Your blog always makes me happy. Best wishes Emma.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Well Emma, If it makes you happy, it makes me want to blog even more! 🙂

      1. I just wanted to let you know I’ve nominated you for the ‘One Lovely Blog Award.’ If you want to join in you can copy the logo from my blog. Obviously it is fine to opt out too. Best Wishes. Emma.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Oh thank you so much dear Emma! I am very honored!!

          1. You are welcome. I found your blog through Chef Mimi and it is a joy to read. Best wishes. Emma xx

  7. Sabine says:

    Soulful, you say it yourself, that´s what this whole post is. A love letter indeed! I adore your shrimp photo, and the Mardi gras parade from your balcony, I can almost hear the noise and feel vibrations. Love this post.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You know I was only kidding: I hate Americans! Just KIDDING. no, I truly meant every word in that post. I just wish more people had a chance to live in different countries than theirs. It is the best way to form your own opinions. The media is so determined to strengthen prejudices…

      1. Sabine says:

        You´re so right. I live abroad for the first time in my life (I mean, for longer than a few weeks), and I really start to realize how important, challenging, and enriching it is to change one´s position/point of view from time to time. You just learn to look at things from different angles, I guess. Always a good thing 🙂 Sabine

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Very well put Sabine!

  8. Jodi says:

    Oh Stephane how I adore your passion! So nice to have you back blogging regularly! It is an indulgence of my day to savor your posts! Your photos, your words, your recipes, your zest and love of life….

    Hubby and I just happen to be heading to New Orleans in three weeks! WOOHOO!

    I’ve been there once – about 15 years ago – hubby has never. I still talk about the FOOD there! It was the highlight to me! Red Beans and Rice from Mother’s – Mufaletta from The Italian Grocer – Prawns and belinis ata brunch at Twin Sisters, of course beignets at Cafe Dumond, and I recall some pralines next door to that. Oh – the food – the food… the culture…. the food LOL!

    If I ever get the privilege to get to France, you will be on top of my visit list. And if you ever want to come to MARS, Pennsylvania – a room awaits!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      What a lové l’y comment d’eau Jodi! Fin you go to New Orléans, itv si réal l’y worth il to rent a car and go se sole plantations. They are about an houe away but irais trulli worth thé drive. Oak Alley si stunning and here so Manu to choose from. Anyway, havé fun and don’t état to much’ sort’ what I menant to sa y si: rat as much as you possible can without gallinacés into a coma 😉

    2. My French Heaven says:

      Sô sorry Jodi. I just noticed the damn spell check was on… Technology I tell you…

      1. Jodi says:

        That is so funny – I was trying to “translate” thinking it was part in French and part English – LOL! I think I can figure out the “gist” of your suggestions – and I THANK YOU greatly! 🙂

        1. My French Heaven says:

          To make it short, in proper English: rent a car and go see the plantations!! 😄

  9. Couldn’t agree more on all points. I was in New Orleans for only a short visit, but it was enough to make me want go again – loved everything about it!

    By the way, 1 stick of butter is 115 grams – so it’s actually 345 grams – really above and beyond human consumption! I will use your tip of thickening the sauce with butter and cornstarch for sure. Great idea! 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I agree! You should use less butter if you can. You’ll have to judge according to how thick you want your sauce to be 😉

  10. This recipe will help me splurge on wild shrimp. Thank you!!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Splurge my dear, splurge! That’s what this life is for!! 😉

  11. Carl Johnson says:

    BBQ may be good but shrimp and grits are better
    Meet you in Charleston or we can make it in France
    next summer !!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I sure hope so! I like my grits simple with cheese 😉

  12. Great post, Stéphane. I like the USA too and love going on vacation there, but unfortunately have not been to New Orleans yet. It is definitely on my bucket list though.
    Great recipe as well, although I doubt I could enjoy anything that has Guinness in it. So I may have to substitute that with something else.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You know I hate Guiness as a drink, but it brings great body to the sauce. Try it! I promise it doesn’t taste anything like Guiness!

      1. I don’t like anything that’s bitter. Grapefruit, tonic, etc. Even regular beer I don’t drink.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          I hate beer with a force!

          1. We should definitely plan a meeting. I think we will like each other’s company 🙂

          2. My French Heaven says:

            I can’t travel much, but if you decide to come down to St Emilion…

          3. It is likely that next year for our summer holiday (probably late August/September) we will be in your area. The idea is to visit Rhone and Rioja, so we will pass Bordeaux on the way home from Rioja.

          4. My French Heaven says:

            Great! I hope I’m around and available (with guests I never know this far in advance) at tat time!

  13. oh my, oh my. That looks so good. I love that your mum visited you each year. What great memories to share.

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Great memories indeed! My dad is scared of flying, so it was a great way for her to travel outside of Europe…

      1. Oh shame about your dad. But mums usually find a way.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Oh believe me, she always finds a way 😉

  14. Oh Stéphane, I just love your love letter to America, you are so kind to us and eloquent. You know it is on my bucket list to travel to France one of these days… (and New Zealand and Hawaii and…) 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Well, I’m a jealous man. So FRANCE first! OK? My love letter comes from the heart. I am so tired of people judging Americans purely off of their impressions of Bush, Palin and the Kardashians… Have a lovely evening my dear American friend!!

  15. Linda says:

    Wonderful post…I enjoyed reading about your take of being an American (we are pretty genuine – well, at least most of us are!) and thank you for your very kind words…Your photos are pure perfection and capture New Orleans and its cuisine to a ‘T’ 🙂 🙂 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Linda. I wonder when people will finally understand that there are fantastic people everywhere (and assholes too, but so is the world we live in). I think that despite what the media is telling us, good people are winning the battle…

  16. Dennie says:

    Stéphane! I am a new follower of your blog and have to say I enjoy it so much! I finally made a trip to New Orleans this past March and have to say ALL the food was outstanding! I can’t wait to go back again! Your photos catch the essence of New Orleans even today! I am going to try this shrimp over the weekend. If it tastes anything like it looks in your photos I know it will be wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Donnie! I’m glad you found my little blog. Check this video. His way of cooking them doesn’t seem bad either 😉 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XhcPpCVk5D0

      1. Dennie says:

        His shrimp looks great! Love that it is served over grits. But, oh my, all the butter he uses! I think I will try your recipe first! Plus, I like your addition of the lemon…

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Oh yes! The lemon is a must (and so is the butter I’m afraid). As for grits, that’s ridiculous. Bread is the only way!!!!

  17. Beautiful photos, beautiful essay. I think you’ve really nailed it here. Each city can be described by its beautiful stereotypes and they’re true. But in order to truly appreciate it you should travel elsewhere and realize that there is a whole beautiful world out there full of authentic places that give stereotypes their truths and it’s an incredible thing. What a perfect love letter. Brennans is classic and so is this recipe!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Thanks Amanda! And yes, some stereotypes are true and make each place and its people that much more special and lovable… 😉

  18. If it has Guinness..I am there!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I could never drink Guiness in a glass, but it certainly is a fantastic cooking ingredient! 😉

      1. Haha! I love the stuff! I made an onion soup with it once and you are right..great ingredient too! 😊👍

  19. scolgin says:

    You are a man to be admired and emulated, whether in Louisiana or France. 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You are way too kind Sean!!! 😉

      1. scolgin says:

        I am making that dish, BTW. Perhaps with a side of vichyssoise. 🙂

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Have the Vichyssoise first. The BBQ shrimp will make you enter another world altogether. Ahhhh the awesome healing power of food 😉

  20. Diane fabritius says:

    Wonderful post. Have to get to n’owlans!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      You certainly do Diane. A special place to be sure!

  21. Sadie's Nest says:

    ❤ Excellent! Now I can refer to myself as a gourmand! (Although I've never thought gluttony was an actual sin, just plain gross.) So glad you see the heart in America:) I have to say that all of my travels abroad (including a couple trips to France) were warm and well received. I only wish time and finances permitted me more chances!

    1. My French Heaven says:

      I’m sure you’ll be back Sadie. All that great food is just waiting for you to enjoy 😉

  22. Great post Stephane and lovely to see those old photos even if not quite your usual brilliant standard. I’ve just come in from buying 3 small cakes at local Paul bakery for 3 of us to share at suppertime so we can have a little bit of each delicious one! So I laughed at that bit about the 10 small cakes …. Lovely shrimp recipe too 🙂

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Ha Ha! Enjoy your cakes!! 😉

  23. billgncs says:

    When I was young I got an invite to join some guys to play rugby in Savannah Georgia for a St Patricks day tournament. We rented condos on Tybee Island right on the sea shore. One of the fellows, Tyrone from New Orleans was pure Cajun and we all kicked in some money and Tyrone and the wives and girlfriends went down to the docks, picked up 40 pounds of shrimp off the boat and prepared a Cajun feast. I recall mountains of rice, okra, spicy shrimp… what a feast. Thanks for tickling my memory

    1. My French Heaven says:

      Such great memories! I lived in Atlanta for several years and know Savannah. I can totally picture such a great feast on local seafood… Memories…

      1. billgncs says:

        great food, great company, great wine – mixed together become the mortar of great memories. Really enjoy your blog, and appreciate it even more having visited France several times.

        1. My French Heaven says:

          Why thank you Bill!! I hope you get to come back soon. This time you should try the Bordeaux area. You won’t be disappointed! 😉

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