Mar 10, 2010

Shrimp Count Too

At one time a shrimp was someone small or insignificant.  Calling someone "shrimp" doesn't seem to happen much any more.  People have moved on to other insults, I guess.  Never understood it anyway.  I mean, shrimp count too!  Even as meatless Lenten meals.

By the way, the American Coot, or mud hen, or marsh hen, or poule d'eau (pull-doo if you're an adult, poo-doo if you aren't or are my dad), as it's called in S LA is also fair game for Lent (get it?'s a type of water fowl).

That's right...special dispensation (aka "a cheat") was given so that poule d'eau could be consumed during Lent.  The reasoning was that their diets are more fish like than fowl.  They're strange birds no matter what.  But I'm off track as usual.  Supposed to be talking about shrimp today.

Around here, in Cajun country, people tend to want crawfish during Lent.  The two seasons occur at the same time.  Yeah, yeah...I'm gettin' to the shrimp.  Promise.  This year, crawfish are hiding.  Really, they are.  We've had some mighty cold weather, even snowed twice.  And recently there was ice a good inch thick on the crawfish ponds (I stopped off on the side of the road and saw it for myself).  This means that crawfish burrow underground (why they're called mudbugs).  This means traps have been pretty bare and prices high.

But not to worry...remember I said shrimp count too.  I ate more shrimp growing up in New Orleans than crawfish anyway.

Today I have a shrimp dish that my whole family loves.  When I last made it, The Boy (also known as Yob for any Looney Tunes fans--spell it backwards)...anyway I was saying that The Boy came inside from playing with the dog and shrieked, shrieked, "Shrimp & Bread!  Oh Boy!"  I loved that he could identify what we were having that night just by smell alone.  I was proud even.  But that's not what the dish is really called--would be a pretty dull title, don't ya think?  It's Italian Shrimp (don't know why it's called that either) and I got the recipe from a recipe swap group I belong to on Babycenter.

Here's why I like this dish:
It reminds me of BBQ shrimp.  BBQ shrimp has nothing at all to do with grilling or BBQ sauce.  Speaking of titles, it's a strangely named dish.  But it's a New Orleans staple.  Mom used to make this often.  But then evil such as "high cholesterol" and "trans fats" and "LDL" came barging in and she didn't make it so much anymore.  I plan on making BBQ shrimp and posting about it soon (be patient!), but here's a glimpse: it involves about 1 full stick of butter for every pound of shrimp.  Gasp!  Faint!

Italian Shrimp, however, is not so unhealthy.  I found it to be a pretty good sub for BBQ shrimp actually.

Other reasons to like it: it's easy and quick to make.

But here's the downside.  It's messy, just like BBQ Shrimp.  The shrimp are cooked shell-on in a flavorful sauce/broth.  So when you eat them, you peel them--all dripping with cooking liquids and herbs and garlic--at the table.  Juice runs down your arms, your glass gets shrimpy each time you take a drink, you come away needing a hose-down.  I don't cook this for company.  It's too embarrassing.

Mise en place for Italian Shrimp: olive oil, white wine, Worcestershire sauce, pepper, salt, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, garlic (roasted or not), oregano, rosemary, shell-on shrimp.
This would be even better with head-on shrimp.  There's fat in the heads that give off great flavor.  But the decapitated shrimp were on sale and I can't pass up a deal.
If you're tempted to make this with peeled shrimp...well, I wouldn't advise it.  Yes, it would be less messy to eat, but the shells provide much of the flavor to the dish.

Add everything to a pot.  Really, it's that simple.
Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes.

A note about the garlic: we like it roasted first.  That's an extra step and the dish is still very good without roasting.  But if you like roasted garlic, do this...even ahead of time. 

Serve in bowls.  With crusty bread. 
You MUST serve with crusty bread. 
And you MUST dip that bread in the juices. 
 I also recommend having a bowl out on the table to collect the shells.  I mean, we may be sitting there covered in shrimpy juices, but we aren't barbarians.

Here's my version of the recipe.  I add Worcestershire sauce to give a hint of the BBQ shrimp I remember eating.  I've also added more wine than the original and only cook 1 pound of shrimp because I don't see this being good leftover.  Maybe it is...I don't know.

Also, I think some lemon wedges would be good added to the pot.

Italian Shrimp
the Ms. enPlace version of a recipe by Pallavi (Eshu_me)

1 pound shell-on shrimp, do not peel
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
1 teaspoons oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons rosemary (fresh if possible and use more)
2 bay leaves
14 cloves roasted garlic or smashed raw garlic cloves
3/4-1 cup dry white wine
about 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper, or to taste

Place all ingredients in a large pot and cook over medium heat for about 15 minutes, or until shrimp are pink and liquid reduced a bit.  Do not over cook or the shrimp will be tough and hard to peel.  Stir occasionally while cooking. Serve the shrimp hot with pan juices and use French bread for dipping.


  1. Do you know that the only kind of shrimp I can get in my supermarket is already shelled, cleaned and frozen? It's a tragedy.

    This look like an amazing meal. So cute that the boy knows what it is based on smell alone.

  2. I SO agree with you...about the shells. They make the shrimp dishes much more flavorful.
    Can't wait to try this.

  3. MM, you know how to make a person hungry.

  4. LOL....I promise I won't tell anyone about the tea.
    AND...I didn't know you worked in a library! I am jealous, as I always loved that so much.


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