Why this dish goes by the name of barbecue shrimp is anybody’s guess, since it’s not barbecued and it’s not cooked or served with barbecue sauce.
The original version is said to have originated in New Orleans’ Italian community a half-century or more ago, to be added to a very long list of the city’s Italian-Creole classics. Improvisations on the original recipe are many, but no authentic barbecue shrimp dish could be described as dainty, considering the spices called for.
Since the shrimp themselves are cooked and served with heads and shells intact, they’re usually eaten as one would eat whole boiled lobster — with a bib and a willingness to use your bare hands. While the head and tail are always removed before eating, many New Orleanians like to retain the shell covering the shrimp meat, as long as the covering is soft and thin enough to chew properly.
In this recipe, the emulsified sauce’s richness is a result of combining butterfat with the shrimp’s natural juices, black pepper, and Worcestershire sauce. The shrimp are cooked just to the point of being done, remaining succulent. And the sauce is a prime candidate for dipping into with crusty bread.
Finger lickin’ is optional.
Adapted from “Ralph Brennan’s New Orleans Seafood Cookbook” by Ralph Brennan.
“Every restaurant in New Orleans has a rendition of this classic dish—sweet and spicy shrimp served over creamy grits. I’ve taken it one step further and added smoky bacon and sharp white cheddar to the grits, which are also delicious served with grilled meats or seafood.” — Diane Phillips, author of The Everyday Rice Cooker: Soups, Sides, Grains, Mains, and More
Funny thing about New Orleans' famed barbecue shrimp — it doesn't fit any definition of barbecue. There's no smoke, no open flame, and no tangy red sauce. Nope, barbecue shrimp is a dish that is usually sautéed or baked in butter and served with French bread for sopping. Here's my take — first I render lardons of bacon to use the fat with butter to add a smokiness to the sauté. Next I'm using that same loaf of French bread to turn it into another New Orleans standard — a po'boy. But I'm not done turning a Big Easy vittle on its head. To top my sandwich I took the old Cajun braised vegetable side dish Maque Choux and turned it into a relish. Finally, a garnish of bacon bits adds crunch and still more smoky goodness.
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This dish takes shrimp and grits to a whole new level. With an amazingly rich barbecue base that is buttery and delicious, these shrimp are still one of the most popular dishes at Emeril's and they will never leave the menu.
Grilled shrimp gets incorporated with Woodbridge by Robert Mondavi wine and Woodbridge wine ‘cue sauce. It is a delectable dish that you can serve as an appetizer to guest. Trust us, they’ll be asking for seconds.
This barbecue shrimp is derived from one Doe Signa, of Doe's Eat Place in Greenville, Mississippi. It calls for shrimp to be cooked over coals; but if you are willing to sacrifice the smoky flavor, they can be cooked any which way.