It’s Mardi Gras weekend!
Most of the country has no idea when Mardi Gras is happening, and they especially don’t know that it lasts for an entire season and not just on Fat Tuesday. Folks in Louisiana start celebrating as soon as the New Year begins, regardless of when the actual holiday falls. There are parties, parades, beads, costumes, and seriously, soooo much food (and drinks, of course). The funny thing is that a lot of people don’t even follow the tradition of lent, which is essentially the whole reason for Mardi Gras’ existence in the first place. They just keep on partying.
(Sidebar: Mardi Gras means Fat Tuesday in French, which blew my mind when I learned this fact.)
Every year I get really nostalgic for this holiday – it was SUCH big deal when I lived in Louisiana during my college years. I miss the parties and the parades, but I especially miss all the amazing food. Crawfish boils, beignets, king cakes, grilled oysters, and my all time favorite New Orleans dish: BBQ Shrimp.
If you’ve had BBQ shrimp before, you know why I consider them to be one of the most delicious foods on the planet. They’re spicy, jam packed with flavor, and sooo obscenely buttery. They’re perfect and most appropriate for indulging in on this sinful, gluttonous holiday. Oh, and don’t even think about serving these without tons of crusty French bread to sop up all that rich, flavorful sauce. It’s essential.
Now, the puzzling thing about this dish, especially if you’ve never heard of it before, is that it has absolutely nothing to do with BBQ as most of us know it. It’s not smoked or grilled, and there’s no tangy, tomato-based BBQ sauce in sight. According to my research, no one actually knows how the name came to be, but once you have your first taste, chances are you won’t care what they’re called.
My favorite place to eat BBQ shrimp in New Orleans is at Mr. B’s on Royal Street, just a block over from the infamous Bourbon Street. They do it right there. Ginormous head-on shrimp and a perfectly balanced sauce. They also make a mean bloody Mary, and if you catch them on the right day, they’re only a dollar. (Pro tip – always sit at the bar). Sigh, I love that city.
My recipe is adapted from Mr. B’s original, but I’ve added a few of my own tweaks. Big, wild caught, shell-on Gulf shrimp are essential, and if you can get them with their heads, by all means do so. Unfortunately, I can’t. I use some dark Amber beer (Abita if you can get it!) to cut the Worcestershire and add another layer of flavor. I add in a few extra aromatics like rosemary and bay, and I also use slightly less black pepper and believe it or not, less butter. Mr. B’s recipe has almost double the amount! Which is just a bit excessive if you ask me. Fourteen tablespoons is plenty for adding richness and mellowing out all that spiciness.
Speaking of butter, yes, quality does matter. I use Finlandia here and always when I want a dish to be extra creamy and for the buttery flavor to really shine through. Perhaps that’s why I’m able to use less butter than Mr. B’s, since a little Finlandia will go a longer way than your standard grocery store variety.
I hope you get to indulge in all things buttery, boozy, and sweet this Mardi Gras weekend. Sensible living will resume next Wednesday, so live it up while you can. Like they say in New Orleans, laissez les bons temps rouler!
This post has been sponsored by Finlandia Butter. All opinions are my own.
I’m still having issues with my recipe plug-in and hope to have it resolved soon. For now, I’m dishing up the recipe the old fashioned way:
PREP TIME: 10 minutes
COOK TIME: 10 minutes
TOTAL TIME: 20 minutes
1/3 cup Worcestershire sauce
1/3 cup Amber beer (recommended: Abita)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning
1 teaspoon coarsely cracked black pepper
Several dashes of hot sauce, to taste (recommended: Crystal)
1 1/2 lbs shell-on wild Gulf shrimp (16-20 count or larger), head-on if possible
4-5 thinly sliced lemon rounds
1/2 lemon, juiced, more to taste
1 package (14 tablespoons) unsalted Finlandia Butter, cold, cut into cubes
salt, to taste
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
Crusty French bread, for serving
Add Worcestershire sauce, beer, garlic, bay leaf, rosemary, Cajun seasoning, pepper and hot sauce to a large sauté pan with a lid. Bring up to a boil, then add shrimp and lemon wheels. Toss to coat, then cover and cook until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3-5 minutes depending on size.
Remove the lid and add lemon juice. Then turn off the heat and add cubed Finlandia butter and stir continuously until fully melted and emulsified. Taste for seasoning and add salt and more lemon juice as needed.
Transfer to a serving dish and sprinkle with scallions and parsley. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the sauce.