I have been transported tonight.
One of my favorite states is Louisiana. A few years ago, I was fortunate enough to work for a company that sent me there to write two books, one about Tulane and another about LSU. And that happy coincidence meant that all tolled I spent about a month there. And I fell in love. I fell in love with the people, who are unique. They are in the South, but not of the South. They are their own culture with their own language and food.
One night I was sitting in the courtyard of my hotel in the French Quarter, sipping a glass of wine and thinking of the pristine raw oysters I had just consumed. A breeze was blowing and you could hear street sounds faintly far away. The stars were out. Sublime. Another time I was eating flat catfish at Middendorfs in Pass Manchac, a restaurant for the locals in the middle of the Bayou. They slice catfish like a potato chip, coat it in cornmeal and deep fry it. Sublime again. Around me local people were talking in that charming Cajun accent that speaks of the fact that you are not in America anymore. You are. But you’re somewhere else.
Larry Jorgensen found me. His name is not remotely Cajun, but he makes a Louisiana hot sauce called Swamp Scum and a seasoning called Bayou Blend. He found my blog and wanted to send me samples. Completely flattered, I said of course! They arrived in the mail the other day and I pondered what to make. What could showcase hot sauce and Cajun seasoning? Nothing else but barbecued shrimp.
In Louisiana, barbecued shrimp are not barbecued. The shrimp are coated in a zesty blend of spices and sauteed. They are then removed from the pan and a mixture of hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice and beer is added to the pan. Once it reduces down, you add one and a half sticks of butter. Slowly. Whisk, whisk, whisk to create an emulsion. Add back the shrimp. Serve with crusty bread for sopping.
This is what barbecued shrimp look like when they’re done. The shrimp are spicy but not too spicy. The sauce is spicy but buttery and rich. The crusty bread is the perfect foil to the heat. This may be the only dish I make that I never worry about a vegetable on the side. It is perfect unto itself.
So the recipe I use comes from Saveur magazine. Here it is. I think it is perfect. Larry’s company is called Mossy Bayou Foods. You need to make friends with him. If I am lucky enough to get other food purveyors to send me samples, I will be happy to try them. But you’ll never see them on the blog unless they’re worth spending money on. This guy’s stuff is worth spending money on. He has a new customer in me.
Larry also sent me some Louisiana popcorn rice. It sounds good and I’ll try it. I almost made it with the barbecued shrimp, but sopping is definitely involved with this dish and the only vehicle for sopping is bread.
I am sorry to say that my own lineage is very bland. English all the way, although my Uncle Mark once told me he was descended from an Indian princess and I wanted to believe it. So I leach interesting cultures and try to make them my own. Tonight, I am Cajun. The warm breezes are blowing through the bayou. I have an accent. I am spicy. The good times are rolling. Thanks, Larry.