Tomorrow is Mardi Gras…one last big celebration before the Lenten season begins on Ash Wednesday. Michael and I grew up in the Houston area, with family on the Texas-Louisiana border. We love New Orleans food, music, and spirit of celebration…so we love to celebrate Mardi Gras here in San Antonio. I like to put on some zydeco music and cook up a special Cajun or Creole dish to celebrate. I had a pound of jumbo Texas Gulf shrimp from San Antonio's Groomer's Seafood in the freezer just waiting for me to make a special recipe. These Mardi Gras BBQ Shrimp are perfect for any celebrations you might have planned for tomorrow. They’re full of the big flavors that we love, and they’re not at all complicated to make. Contrary to their name, they’re not actually BBQ’ed in the typical sense.
Traditionally, this New Orleans specialty requires head-on, unpeeled shrimp simmered in a spicy “BBQ” sauce. However, I recently found a refined version of this dish from Brennan’s of Houston that uses headless shrimp that are peeled and butterflied. This dish definitely delivers on flavor – with a robustly flavored sauce that includes lemon, Worcestershire sauce, and spicy Cajun seasoning. These BBQ shrimp can be certainly be served as an appetizer, but we made a meal from them by eating the shrimp and then dipping toasted French bread in the addictive, flavorful sauce!
Mardi Gras BBQ Shrimp
adapted from Brennan’s of Houston
Ingredients (makes 2-3 servings):
- 1 lb. jumbo head-off shrimp (18-20 count) – peeled, butterflied, with tails left on
- 2 tbs. butter + 1 tbs. olive oil
- 1/3 cup julienne poblano pepper
- 1/3 cup julienne red bell pepper
- ½ cup julienne shallot
- 3 garlic cloves, minced or grated
- 1 tsp. garlic-infused hot sauce
- 1/3 cup half and half
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 2 large lemons, quartered
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 tbs. Cajun seasoning
- ½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- Salt to taste
- 3 bay leaves
Step 1: Make the BBQ base. Add the Worcestershire sauce, chicken broth, quartered lemons, garlic cloves, salt & pepper, Cajun seasoning, and bay leaves to a medium saucepan over med-high heat. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to medium. Cook until the mixture reduces by half – approximately 20 minutes. Strain the reduced mixture through a mesh sieve into a measuring cup – you should have approximately ¾ cup of sauce. Discard solids.
Step 2: Heat the butter and olive oil in a medium cast iron skillet over med-high heat until bubbly. Lower heat to medium. Add the poblano pepper, red bell pepper, shallot, and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for approximately 1 minute. Add the shrimp in an even layer and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Step 3: Reduce heat to med-low. Add the reserved sauce, half and half, and hot sauce. Stir to combine the sauce with the shrimp and cook an additional 1-2 minutes, until the shrimp are just cooked through. Remove from heat and sprinkled with sliced green onion. Serve with lots of warm toasted French bread for dipping in the savory sauce.
This dish is a party all on its own! While making this dish is a two-step process, it’s not really that time-consuming. While the BBQ base reduces on the stove, you have a pocket of time to peel and butterfly the shrimp. Once those two steps are done, the final step takes less than 10 minutes. The buttery sauce is tangy and spicy, with a touch of savory from the chicken stock. This is the kind of dish where you use your hands to eat the shrimp and dunk the French bread into the sauce. Sure, it’s a little messy…but that's half the fun. Be sure to bring lots of extra paper towels to the table, put on some zydeco music and laissez les bon temps rouler!
Disclosure: Groomer’s Seafood in San Antonio provided me with a sampler of their fresh seafood to facilitate recipe development for this post. All opinions expressed are solely my own.