Barbecue shrimp, one of the four or five best dishes in all of New Orleans cooking, is completely misnamed. They’re neither grilled nor smoked, and there’s no barbecue sauce. It was created in the mid-1950s at Pascal’s Manale Restaurant. A regular customer came in and reported that he’d enjoyed a dish in a Chicago restaurant that he though was made with shrimp, butter, and pepper. He asked Pascal Radosta to make it. Radosta took a flyer at it. The customer said that the taste was not the same, but he liked the new dish even better. So was born the signature dish at Manale’s.
The dish is simple: huge whole shrimp in a tremendous amount of butter and black pepper. The essential ingredient is large, heads-on shrimp, since the fat in the shrimp heads makes most of the flavor. Resist the urge to add lots of herbs or garlic. This recipe is largely based on the new recipe created by Chef Gerard Maras in the early 1980s at Mr. B’s. The butter emulsifies into the other liquids, and gives not only a bigger flavor but a nicer-looking dish.
The amount of butter and pepper in my recipe seem fantastic. Be bold. This is not a dish you will eat often–although you will want to.
- 3 lbs. fresh Gulf shrimp with heads on, 16-20 count to the pound
- 1 Tbs. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1/4 cup dry white wine
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 4 Tbs. black pepper (or more!)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 3 sticks butter, softened
- 2 tsp. paprika
- 1 loaf French bread
1. Rinse the shrimp and shake the excess water from them. Put them in a large skillet (or two) over medium heat, and pour the lemon juice, wine, Worcestershire, and garlic over it. Bring the liquids in the pan to a light boil and cook, turning the shrimp over with a spoon every two minutes or so, until all the brown-gray color in the shrimp is gone. Don’t overcook! At the first moment when you think the shrimp might be done, they will be: lower the heat to the minimum.
2. Cover the shrimp with a thin but complete layer of black pepper. You must be bold with this. When you think you have enough pepper in there, you still need a little more. Add the paprika and salt.
3. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces and distribute over the shrimp. With a big spoon, turn the shrimp over. Agitate the pan as the butter melts over the shrimp and emulsifies into the liquid at the bottom of the pan. When no more solid butter is visible. Remove the pan from the burner.
4. Serve the shrimp with lots of the sauce in bowls. Serve with hot French bread for dipping. Also plenty of napkins and perhaps bibs.
Serves four to six.