Mar 24, 2010

BBQ Shrimp (no grill required)

The New Orleans staple, BBQ Shrimp, was created at Pascal's Manale.

Pascal's Manale, a Creole-Italian (Sicilian) restaurant on Napoleon Ave., opened in 1913. Can you believe?  With all the come-and-go restaurants these days, it's hard to believe that one has been around for so long. And it's still owned by the original family. Even more astounding is the fact that this isn't New Orleans' oldest. Antoine's and Tujague's have been around since about the mid 1800s.  And that's no typo.

According to Kerri McCaffety in her book Etouffee, Mon Amour: The Great Restaurants of New Orleans, BBQ Shrimp was first concocted in 1954 by Pascal Radosta (the second owner...Frank Manale was the first), his brother, and a friend. They called it "BBQ" because the sauce was rich and spicy. (88) 

The sauce found in BBQ Shrimp is not at all what people think when they hear "BBQ sauce."  If you've never had BBQ Shrimp, don't expect KC Masterpiece.  The sauce is made with butter, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, lemon, garlic, and misc. other seasonings depending on the cook.  Oh, and there's no debate about gas v. charcoal...these shrimp don't go anywhere near a grill.  The dish is baked.

Tom Fitzmorris, in his cookbook, New Orleans Food, provides more info on how this dish came to be: "a regular customer came in and reported that he'd enjoyed a dish in a Chicago restaurant that he thought was made with shrimp, butter, and pepper. He asked Pascal Radosta to duplicate it." The customer's review: Pascal's BBQ Shrimp was "not quite the same, but actually even better." (98)

Unfortunately, word on the street is that the BBQ Shrimp found at Pascal's Manale, while the original, is no longer the best in town. Others have taken the recipe, tweaked it, improved it.

Some people use margarine, some butter (I'm a butter girl).  Some use beer, some white wine, a lot of home cooks use Italian salad dressing for extra sauce.  I stick with butter and natural shrimp juices.  Shrimp juices...sounds off but dat's good, yeah!  My mom always added Italian salad dressing because my dad could drink gallons of the stuff.  I'm not much of a fan.  Some people use special super-duper secret spice blends, some just use Tony's and dried herbs.  Obviously, many variations on BBQ Shrimp exist.

It's pretty much a given that the shrimp will have their heads.  The shells and "fat" in the heads add flavor.  Do you know how hard it was to find shrimp with their noggins still attached?  Since most people prefer to buy shrimp that have already been cleaned for them, I had to run all over town.  Finally, I got tired and started calling around. 
" your shrimp have heads?"  

A few people thought it was a prank. 

Someone at work told me a man was down the road selling shrimp out the back of his van.   But I don't know...we're about an hour to an hour and a half from the coast.  Plus I recently watched Silence of the Lambs and was kinda iffy about a scruffy guy with a van.  Shrimp with heads intact didn't seem worth the potential for food poisoning from spoiled seafood...or being turned into a lady suit.

Winn-Dixie came through for me.  I got my heady shrimp with their okra seed-looking eyes and no one tried to wear me as a dress.  Whew.

This is a lot of butter.  Just felt like I should get that warning in.  Can't have people falling outta their chairs, now, can we?  You may slip from your chair due to a butter-induced coma or heart attack after you eat, but by that point you'll have read my BBQ Shrimp babbling.

BBQ Shrimp isn't something you'll eat often.  I mean, you'll want to eat it often...but you really shouldn't.  When I want to be good, I make Italian Shrimp to get my fix.  It's similar, but not as rich (due to the lack of butter and shrimp heads) or as lemony.  The Italian Shrimp recipe could be jacked with to Capt. Jean-Luc Picard would say...make it so.  But I'd still give BBQ Shrimp a try too.  You only live once.

Mise en place for BBQ Shrimp. 
But feel free to make subs for seasonings.  I know you will anyway.
Head-on shrimp, butter, finely chopped onion & garlic, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, pepper, Tony's, dried rosemary, dried oregano, lemon juice

Rinse the shrimp well and drain.  Especially if you bought them out the back of a van.

Place the shrimp in a baking dish.  Dust with Tony's, black pepper, and a little salt.  Not too much salt because Worcestershire sauce is already salty.  Let this sit while you work on the sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the onion, garlic, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs, and lemon juice. 

Pour the sauce over the shrimp.
The mix of Worcestershire sauce, butter, and shrimp...
I'm suddenly 10 years old sitting at the kitchen table doing homework while mom cooks supper.  Funny how aromas can give you such a clear picture. 
~~Proustian moment over~~

Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes.  But this depends on the size of your shrimp.  Super colossal jumbo behemoth shrimp will take longer.  You'll have to check them.  Baste every 5-7 minutes.

Serve with a nice crusty French bread to dip in the rich, buttery, flavorful sauce.
If you don't, you're only hurting yourself.
On second thought, if you don't I'll have to hurt you for being a putz.

There are A LOT of recipes for New Orleans style BBQ Shrimp out there.  Here's my version:

BBQ Shrimp
from Ms. enPlace

1 lb large shrimp, shell and head on
black pepper

Tony's Creole seasoning
1 stick butter
about 1/4 c finely chopped onion
4 large cloves finely chopped garlic
1/4 c Worcestershire sauce
5-7 shakes hot sauce
1/2 tsp dried rosemary (crushed in your hand)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
juice of 1 medium lemon (or to taste, I like lemon)

Preheat oven to 350.

Rinse shrimp in cold water and drain.  Place shrimp in a baking dish and sprinkle with a layer of black pepper and Tony's.  Sprinkle with salt, but not too much since Worcestershire sauce is salty.  Let shrimp sit while you make the sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan.  Add the onions, garlic, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, dried herbs, and lemon juice.

Pour the sauce mixture evenly over the shrimp.  Bake at 350 for about 15-20 minutes, basting every 5 or so minutes.  Adjust baking time according to the size of your shrimp--colossal shrimp may take longer than 15 minutes.

Serve with French bread for dipping in the sauce.  Serves 2-3

Note: if you'd like lots of sauce, consider adding about 3/4 c of white wine or beer.  Or about 1/2 c Italian salad dressing.

Fitzmorris, Tom.  Tom Fitzmorris's New Orleans Food.  New York: Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2006.

McCaffety, Kerri.  Etouffee, Mon Amour: The Great Restaurants of New Orleans.  Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Co., 2002.


  1. I guarantee you wouldn't have to hurt me for being a putz:D I would happily dip my bread in that sauce.
    Love the thought of you calling for shrimp with their heads on. I would think shrimp with heads would be easy to find there. Glad to hear the WD pulled through for you.

  2. Oh, this looks so good! My mil makes bbq shrimp but she has lots of orange slices in it. I like it but my husband doesn't so I'm on the lookout for a different bbq shrimp recipe. I'm gonna try yours! I'm your newest follower! also from Louisiana!


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