White Beans and Shrimp

This is a classic home-style dish in Cajun country, one that is becoming more popular around New Orleans, too. It might not seem a logical combination. But seafood and beans are much better together than most people realize. And white beans (the little ones, also known as navy beans) are the perfect size, flavor and color to most complement the beans. My wrinkle on this is a garnish of big shrimp wrapped with bacon. The little shrimp mixed into the beans are best bought heads-on, but peeled are okay.

White beans and shrimp

  • 1 pound white navy beans
  • 1 Tbs. liquid crab boil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 2 lbs. medium to small shrimp (21 to 50 count)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • ½ red bell pepper, seeds and membrane removed, chopped
  • 1 tsp. savory (or oregano)
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 12 large shrimp (10-15 count), peeled and butterflied
  • 4 oz. pepper jack cheese
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 12 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • 3 green onions, tender green parts only, finely snipped

1. Sort through, wash, and soak the navy beans overnight. Dump the soaking water.

2. Bring 2 quarts of water to a light boil with the crab boil, salt, and lemon juice. Add the shrimp and watch for the first sign of boiling to return. Remove the pan from the heat, and strain the boiling liquid into a bowl. Spread the shrimp out onto a pan and put them into the refrigerator to cool quickly.

3. Heat the olive oil in a four-quart saucepan until the oil shimmers. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, savory, and crushed red pepper. Cook just until the onions turn clear.

4. Add the drained beans to the pan. Add the reserved shrimp-boiling liquid, plus enough more water if needed to put the beans under about an inch of water. Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat until the first bubbles break, then lower to a simmer temperature. Cook uncovered, stirring every ten minutes or so, for about two hours–or until the beans are soft but not falling apart.

Preheat the broiler to 500 degrees, with the rack about three inches below the heat.

5. Stuff the large shrimp with thin slices of the pepper jack cheese. Wrap each shrimp with a half-slice of bacon, spiraling the bacon so it doesn’t double up on itself. Affix the bacon with a toothpicks. Broil the shrimp, turning once, until the bacon is crisp and dark around the edges.

6. While the bacon is in the broiler, add the shrimp from the refrigerator to the beans. Stir to distribute the shrimp among the beans. Add salt, Tabasco, and Creole seasoning to taste. And a little more water if the beans are too thick.

7. Serve the shrimp and beans over half as much cooked rice, topped with the parley, green onions, and two of the broiled, bacon-wrapped shrimp.

Serves six.

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