Monday, July 16, 2007

Like Buttah

When I got to choose a special meal for my family birthday dinner, I thought about things I don't often make myself. I landed on the perfect celebratory, once-a-year kind of dinner: New Orleans-style Cajun barbeque shrimp. If you've never had it, trust me: you're missing out.

Shrimp (head-on, mais oui!) are slowly cooked in a bath of Cajun-spiced butter. Rumor has it, it was created at an Italian/Cajun restaurant called Pascal's Manale in New Orleans. Served with a hunk of fresh French bread and a simple green salad, it's one of the most decadent, delicious meals ever. And even though it seems rich, it's truly not too heavy.

Be ready to get messy. This isn't the meal for your finest linens. Spread some newspaper on the table and set out a roll of paper towels for napkins. Serve the shrimp in a big bowl with empty bowls for the discarded shells. Serve with a simple green salad, lots of French bread and cold beer or a crisp white wine, turn the music up, and enjoy.

Cajun Barbeque Shrimp
serves 6
4 pounds shrimp, heads* and shells on
1 pound butter
1 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
3 tablespoons black pepper (the stuff in the can is just fine here)
1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tablespoon salt
Juice from 2 lemons

Rinse and dry shrimp and set aside. Combine butter and oil in a large saucepan or stockpot
over medium-low heat. When butter melts, add spices, Worcestershire and salt, and stir to combine.

Add shrimp. Toss to make sure shrimp are completely coated and cook until pink and firm. Off the heat, stir in lemon juice and serve.

*Though they're kind of hard to find, shrimp with the heads still on are crucial for the flavor of the dish. Also, whenever possible, I look for wild American shrimp. The flavor is incomparable.

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