Spend time in New Orleans and you are bound to hear about a spicy shrimp dish of large, head-on shrimp served in a garlicky, peppery butter sauce referred to as barbecue shrimp. Pascal’s Manale, one of the oldest restaurants in the city originally created this delicious but messy dish.
Pascal’s Manale, founded in 1913, is one of the oldest Creole Italian restaurants in New Orleans and is famous for its barbecue shrimp. One of the city’s most distinctive and copied dishes, it is a far cry from what we typically envision when we think of barbecue. The shrimp have never been near a bbq grill or smoker, and are not covered in your typical barbecue sauce. Instead, the heads-on shrimp are served in a brothy sauce of butter, Worcestershire sauce and black pepper along with crusty French bread for mopping up the yummy sauce.
Years back, my husband and I had been told that we “must try” this famous dish when visiting the Crescent City. Dressed for an evening out, we headed to Pascal’s Manale and ordered the shrimp as an appetizer. Granted you are given a bib and lots of paper napkins but they are very messy to eat as you must peel and eat the shrimp with your fingers. It was delicious but fair warning…roll up your sleeves and have lots of napkins to wipe away the butter that drips down your elbows as you pull apart the shrimp.
Just as chefs all over New Orleans have tinkered and tweaked the recipe for their own restaurants, so have I. Each time I prepare the spicy shrimp, I make a few changes to the recipe. Two changes that I’ve kept over the years are to use headless, peeled and deveined shrimp and to use much less butter and black pepper. I use frozen shrimp but if you happen to live near the Gulf Coast and have access to fresh shrimp, all the better. The recipe is very flexible and can be adapted to your own preferences. In my version, I thickened the broth to a sauce like consistency so that it is easier to eat.
Spicy New Orleans Style Shrimp
Serves 2 – 4, adjust the recipe accordingly
- 8 to 12 colossal sized shrimp, 3 or 4 per serving
- 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp. ground thyme
- 1/4 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
- 1/4 tsp. dried basil, crumbled
- 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper
- 2 Tbsp. butter
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1/4 onion, finely chopped
- 2 – 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp. anchovy paste
- 2 tsp., more or less, tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
- 1 to 2 tsp. Tabasco or to taste
- 1 Tbsp. Wondra ( a special instant flour that doesn’t create lumps, regular flour can be substituted)
- 1/2 c. dry white wine
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
- broth from shrimp shells*
*Peel and devine shrimp but leave tail on. Place the shells in 1 cup of water and bring to boil. Cook for several minutes until the shells have turned pink, remove from heat, discard shells and save the shrimp broth to use for thinning the sauce, if necessary.Notes From the Kitchen
Toss the shrimp with the herbs and spices in a bowl then set aside.
Melt the butter and olive oil in sauté pan over medium high heat, add the onions and garlic, cook until translucent. Add the shrimp and sauté about one minute on each side until they turn bright pink. Remove the shrimp from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the anchovy and tomato pastes and stir to incorporate. Sprinkle Wondra over, stir and cook the flour about a minute but do not let brown. Pour in the wine, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco, bring to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid thickens slightly. If the sauce gets too thick, use some shrimp broth to thin. Taste and adjust seasonings, if necessary. Add the shrimp back to the pan along with the lemon juice and cook for approximately one minute more on each side. Serve immediately.
The shrimp recipe, prepared New Orleans style, is a spicy, flavorful dish that can be enjoyed anytime of the year but especially when with weather is cooler. Served with a side of rice and a slice or two of crusty bread to soak up some of the delicious sauce, it makes for a fine meal. Enjoy!