If you've never had New Orleans-style barbecued shrimp, you're forgiven for thinking you're about to see a recipe for shrimp swamped in smoky-sweet BBQ sauce. Instead, get ready for a spicy, vinegary, garlicky, wow-that's-a-lot-of-butter sauce, and have a crusty piece of bread on-hand to soak up every last drop when the shrimp are all gone.
In the traditional preparation, shell-on shrimp are sautéed stove-top, but Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby take a more literal approach to 'barbecued' shrimp in their latest book, The Big-Flavor Grill. They use their simply seasoned Super-Basic Grilled Shrimp for their version, tossing the hot shrimp in the sauce just before serving.
Why I picked this recipe: I'm in New Orleans cooking for a New Orleans crowd. I couldn't resist seeing how this version would go over.
What worked: Though some debate was waged about the perfect balance of this style of sauce—some wanted less vinegar tang, others more Worcestershire—everyone appreciated the extra level of flavor the slight char and smokiness of the grilled shrimp brought to the dish.
What didn't: It's not that Tabasco didn't work here; it was fine. But since I'm currently sitting a block away from the original Crystal Hot Sauce factory, and the sharp whiff of peppers and vinegar used to permeate these very walls surrounding me, I have to officially register that I'd rather they call out Crystal, if they're going to name-drop a hot sauce. It's got slightly less acidity than Tabasco and a greater depth of flavor.
Suggested tweaks: Schleisinger and Willoughby suggest using these shrimp as a po' boy filling—not a bad idea at all. However, if you're going that route, and you don't like eating shrimp tails (and these get wonderfully charred and sauced if you do), remove them before grilling.
Reprinted with permission from The Big-Flavor Grill, by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, copyright 2014. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House LLC.
- Yield:Serves 8 as an appetizer, 4 as an entrée
- Active time: 20 minutes
- Total time:45 minutes
- For the Barbecue Sauce
- 1 stick butter
- 1 tablespoon spicy brown mustard
- 3 tablespoons Tabasco sauce
- 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- For the Shrimp
- 2 pounds large shrimp (16/20 per pound) peeled and deveined, tails left on
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
Build a two-level fire in your grill, which means you put all the coals on one side of the grill and leave the other side free of coals. When the flames have died down, all the coals are covered with gray ash, and the temperature is medium-hot (you can hold your hand 6 inches above the grill for 3 to 4 seconds), you’re ready to cook.
PREP: While the fire heats up, combine [the ingredients for the Barbecue Sauce] in a small saucepan over low heat. Cook, stirring frequently, until the butter has melted and the ingredients are well blended, then set aside.
GRILL: Thread the shrimp onto skewers, about 6 per skewer. Drizzle the shrimp with the olive oil and sprinkle them generously with the salt and pepper, then place them on the grill directly over the coals and cook until slightly charred and golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. To check for doneness, cut into one of the shrimp at its thickest point and peek inside to be sure it is opaque throughout.
TOSS: When the shrimp come off the grill, slide them off the skewers into a large bowl. Add the barbecue sauce and toss vigorously to coat.