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Shrimp And Ham Bouchees

No place has a perfect cuisine, and no occasion reveals the local imperfections like a wedding reception. At wedding receptions around New Orleans, it is almost a certainty that you will encounter a terrible dish called “oyster patties.” These consist of glop in a “patty shell”–a small round pastry with a pocket. The problem with it is that oysters release so much water as they cook that the sauce and the patty shell have a way of merging into an unpleasant whole.

I offer this dish as a replacement for oyster patties. I’ve removed the oysters for use in better dishes, and replace them with shrimp. (This also works with crawfish, in season. The sauce is a take on the one used for oysters Bienville, but without the oysters. And puff pastry replaced patty shells. You could even use small pizzas and the shrimp mixture as a thick sauce on them.

  • 1 stick butter
  • 2/3 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup hot milk
  • 4 oz. shredded Morbier or Gruyere cheese
  • 8 oz. smoky, lean sliced ham, chopped coarsely
  • 1 cup shiitake mushrooms, chopped coarsely
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 cup small shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 oz. brandy
  • 10 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves only, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh tarragon, if available (otherwise omit)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • Generous pinch cayenne
  • 12 small puff pastry shells

1. Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a saucepan. Stir in the flour to make a blond roux. When you see the first hints of browning, remove from the heat and whisk in the hot milk to form a béchamel. (It will have the texture of mashed potatoes.)

2. Stir the cheese into the hot béchamel and set aside.

3. In a second skillet, heat the ham until it begins to steam, then add the mushrooms and wine. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until mostly dry.

4. Add the shrimp and cook until they turn pink. Lower the heat, add the brandy, and let it mostly boil away.

5. Stir the shrimp and ham mixture, the parsley, and the tarragon into the béchamel. Add salt and cayenne.

6. Spoon the sauce into the puff pastry shells and place on a baking sheet. Bake the shells in a preheated 400-degree oven for about two minutes, and serve immediately.

Serves six.

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