In my Acadiana BBQ Shrimp recipe, the jumbo Gulf shrimp are bathed in a buttery mix of herbs and spices that soak into every crevice of the crustacean. The heads are mandatory as they do the work of sucking up the peppery flavors of the butter sauce and mixing with their natural head fat into some kind of ethereal nectar of the gods. Slurping is not only allowed but guaranteed.
Barbecue shrimp sounds like a bad idea; instinctively, I know this dish just isn’t supposed to work. It defies every recipe rule of engagement I’ve ever known. Huge head-on, shell-on Gulf shrimp drowned in a butter bath spiked with a sandstorm of powdered garlic and an avalanche of black pepper with a shot of anchovy-laden Worcestershire, a splash of wine, and needles of herby rosemary all baked in a black iron skillet–this is culinary anarchy. But it works. It works brilliantly.
First things first, it’s barbecued shrimp but not barbecued. In fact, this recipe never even comes close to a grill or a smoker. As confusing as that important point is, in just five decades, barbecue shrimp has become a New Orleans culinary legend. What started out in 1954 as a courtesy to an out-of-town customer at Pascal’s Manale restaurant on Napoleon Avenue in the uptown area of New Orleans, has taken on legendary status. Not only is their Original BBQ Shrimp a must-order for every tourist visiting the Big Easy, but it is also equally adored by locals. Recipes abound, and other than the original Manale standard, no two recipes are alike. That said, there is one basic rule: butter, lots of butter.
I recall first making this dish about twenty years ago. Everything was telling me–no, I was telling me–that a recipe with this cumbersome combination of ingredients in these unwieldy amounts all mish-mashed together would never work. Not never, not no how. But it does. Shrimp swimming in an Olympic-sized pool of butter and you, with crusty French bread in hand, ready to cannonball into the deep end. That’s barbecued shrimp—Lousiana style.
There are three essentials for this dish: sourcing head-on shrimp for sucking the juices, a large loaf of hot French bread for mopping up the sauce, and a large roll of paper towels for wiping up your hands. There you have it.
Give my version–Acadiana BBQ Shrimp—a try and discover an easy way of arriving at a delectable destination with a unique combination of ingredients.
- 3 pounds colossal (9 – 12-count) Gulf shrimp, head-on and shell-on
- 3 sticks unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- ¼ cup garlic powder
- ¼ cup ground black pepper
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican or Greek
- 1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
- Juice of 1 large lemon
- Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
- Remove the shrimp and rinse them, but dry them with meticulous attention to detail. Water is your enemy. Drain all moisture off the shrimp and lay them out on a dish towel to soak up any water. Then use wads of paper towels to hand-dry the shrimp. If you don’t (and I warned you), your butter sauce will be watered down and lose the impact needed for the full taste experience.
- In large cast-iron skillet or baking dish over medium-high heat, add the butter. As the butter begins to melt, add the Cajun seasoning, garlic powder, black pepper, Worcestershire, wine, rosemary, oregano, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Stir and once blended, add the shrimp. Baste the shrimp with the sauce and place in the pre-heated oven.
- Bake until the shrimp turn pink and are done, about 30 minutes, basting the shrimp with the butter sauce halfway through. Remove and test the largest shrimp for doneness. If done, serve immediately by placing in the center of the table with lots of French bread.
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