Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The History of Barbecued Shrimp
    Introducing Pascal Manale's

In the early 1900's, a young Italian man and his family decided to emigrate to the United States.  Their final destination, New Orleans. In 1913, he opened his namesake restaurant, Pascal Manale's. This restaurant is an icon in the hospitality field of the city.  What's more, it's credited for creating New Orleans Barbecued Shrimp. To this day, this dish remains a mainstream delicacy found on menus throughout the city.

Now, this is not what you would typically think when the word "Barbecued" appears in the title.  It is far from grilled shrimp basted with a zesty tomato sauce. Instead, it's a wonderful concoction of broiled shrimp in a very flavorful butter sauce. Intrigued with the history, I decided to go exploring to experience the roots of the dish first hand.     

Pascals Manale's 

Driving to the restaurant was a bit of an experience. Manale's is located in what is known as "Uptown", New Orleans. At first, I was certain that I either had the wrong address or at the very least, I was lost.  You see, Uptown is a residential neighborhood. Seeing large city homes one after another on this thoroughfare lined with large oak trees, this is the last place I expected to find a fabulous restaurant.  Then low and behold, it was in front of me.  It appears that back in the time of its inception, many entrepreneurs used part of their home for their business.  And that's just what this looked like, someone's home.

Getting into the restaurant was harder than I thought. Not that it was overly crowded; there was no front door!  The entrance is actually a side door and when you cross the threshold, you find yourself standing in the middle of a large barroom. Along one wall was a long antique bar.  The personable and very professional bartender served me a local beer and as I turned to survey the room, my eyes lit up. On the opposite side of the room was a very inviting marble raw bar.  I was in the mood for some great Gulf oysters.  I inquired with the bartender about the oysters. He said "Just tell me what you want, I'll ring it up, you get a token, then go make yourself at home". It was just that simple but beware, it's cash only when your in the bar.

Uptown T
As I approached the raw bar, I could tell the shucker was a real pro. I slide my token across the marble bar and the attendant introduces himself as Thomas, but he said "everyone calls me Uptown T".  It was a casual and friendly environment with lots of camaraderie.  More importantly, "T" was very good at his trade. 

The Oyster Bar
He shucked oyster after oyster with proficiency. They were plump, salty and just what I was in the mood for.  One curious thing though; when standing at the raw bar, there are no plates.  As "T" shucks, he just sets them right on the bar in front of you.  But that didn't deter me in the least! After I whet my appetite, it was off to the dining room to see the star of the show.

The dining room was large and well lighted. The tables were cover in white linen and the servers were in formal attire.  After surveying the menu for a moment, I decided on the Insalata Manale and the signature BBQ Shrimp.

The Salad
The house salad was a generous portion of crisp baby greens tossed in a traditional Italian vinaigrette (made with exceptional olive oil, red wine vinegar and herbs). The dressed greens were garnished with slices of ripe Roma tomatoes, olives, diced provolone cheese and pepperoncinis. All was lightly dusted with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. A delicious salad but in my humble opinion, a bit steep at $9.50.
After finishing my salad, one of the back waiters quickly removed my plate without me hardly noticing. Next my server arrived wearing a big smile and holding a large white bib.  As she stood behind me, securing it around my neck, she stated it was "required equipment". Only later would I know what she meant. 

And now, the moment for which I was waiting.  The server quickly returned with a large white bowl teeming with colossal head on shrimp, swimming in a rich butter sauce.  In addition, she delivered a loaf of freshly baked crusty bread, another piece of "required equipment" for the meal.

My guess is that the shrimp were 8 count, meaning there are approximately 8 shrimp per pound. I counted 14 shrimp in my order and they were perfectly cooked. The butter sauce was very interesting.  Very flavorful but not "burn the house down" spicy. There were favors and aromas of lemon, pepper (both cayenne and black), garlic, herbs and Worcestershire sauce.  The butter was not a creamy sauce but rather a separated butter with most of the flavorful ingredients sinking to the bottom of the bowl: cue the crusty bread.  I was now starting to figure out the "required equipment".  I eagerly peeled the shrimp, swirling them in the butter to pick up all the flavors before eating them. As I worked through the shrimp, I occasionally stopped to break bread for dunking. After I finished, my plate was removed and I now understand the reason for the other piece of "required equipment". There was butter dripping down my front and my place setting was something you might find after a 4 year old ate.  Butter drips and bread crumbs everywhere!

This was a real treat and the entire experience was wonderful.

Now, all that being said, I'll let you in on a little secret. We prepare Barbecued Shrimp at Landry's Seafood.  Although different in a couple of aspects, I'll put our dish up against Pascal's anytime. Here are the differences.

First, our version is an appetizer. If you want to try something new, you don't have to bet your whole meal on whether it's your cup of tea or not.  Secondly, our shrimp is peeled.  No need for a bib and a little more user friendly.  Lastly, our butter sauce is a creamy homogenized sauce so all the flavors and ingredients are suspended through out the dish. Not sure if Pascal Manale's will share their recipe with you but I'm happy to share ours. Give it a try. I'm sure you'll become addicted.

Pascal Manale's BBQ Shrimp
Landry's Seafood BBQ Shrimp


New Orleans BBQ Shrimp 
Serves 2

10 each   Large Shrimp (16-20 count), peeled, deveined, tail on
2 pieces French Bread, 6" in length
4Tbl. Garlic Butter
1 oz. (v) Clarified Butter
1 1/2 tsp.  Minced Garlic
2 Tbl. Green Onion, cut 1/4"
1 oz. (v) Worchestershire Sauce
1 oz. (v) Heavy Cream
3/4 cup New Orleans BBQ Butter
chopped parsley for garnish

1.  Using a serrated knife, cut a shallow pocket in the French bread approx. 5" long. Spread 2 Tbl. of garlic butter in the dug out section of each piece of French bread. Place the bread on a baking tray and bake in a pre-heat 375 degree oven until toasted and golden, approx. 5 minutes

2.  In a large sauté pan, heat the clarified butter over medium high heat. Add the shrimp and sauté for 1 minute, turning the shrimp frequently.  Add the garlic and green onions and sauté for an additional minute, stirring well.

3. Deglaze the pan with worchestershire sauce and heavy cream.  Bring to a boil and reduce the liquid by half.

4. Turn the heat to low and add the BBQ butter. Using a spoon, swirl the butter into the pan liquid as it melts forming a creamy butter sauce. Allow the shrimp to poach in the butter sauce until firm to the touch and cooked through, approx. 2-3 minutes

To plate:
Place one toasted bread "boat" in the center of each plate.  Using tongs, evenly divide the shrimp between the two loaves of bread, arranging the shrimp in the cavity. Pour the pan butter sauce evenly over and around the shrimp on each plate. Sprinkle chopped parsley over the shrimp.

New Orleans BBQ Butter
1 lb. Unsalted Butter
1 Tbl. Crystal Hot Sauce (or substitute Tabasco Sauce)
2 Tbl. Cajun Seasoning (such as McCormick's or Tony Chachere's) 
1 Tbl. Lemon Pepper Seasoning
1 tsp. Dried Rosemary
juice from half of a lemon

Cut the butter into 1" cubes. Place in a mixing bowl and allow to soften at room temperature. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Transfer to a suitable storage container, cover and refrigerate until needed.


Chef Joe

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