Undertow

For Mother’s Day, my sister and brother-in-law took us to the Undertow in Orange Beach, Alabama for their $10 all you can eat Crawfish and Royal Red buffet. Sure, there were also potatoes, corn and sausage but we were there for the seafood.

Royal Reds are a variety of shrimp that live the deeper waters off the Alabama Gulf Coast and are large and sweet. The meat is comparable to lobster and that’s why we had ours with drawn butter.

The Undertow is a casual, local hangout and the staff are friendly, even as they worked their tails off keeping up with refilling the buffet and slinging drinks. They run the buffet on weekends during the shrimping season but get there early – it runs from 2pm to 7pm or until they run out! Smoking is allowed at the bar and there is outside seating as well.

The Undertow
25025 Canal Rd
Orange Beach, Alabama
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Cha Cha Cha Cajun Shrimp

When I lived in San Francisco in the 1990’s, one of my favorite restaurants was Cha Cha Cha in the Mission. The menu is Cuban and Puerto Rican inspired while also fusing some of the best of many other cuisines.

I recently came across the restaurant’s cookbook in the used cookbook store in New Orleans (Kitchen Witch). The literary revisiting of their restaurant made me hungry and sent me to the kitchen to cook. One of the dishes that I really liked, I fixed for my folks this week. Cha Cha Cha Cajun Shrimp is a tapas dish there and is colorful and flavorful. It can be a little spicy, so I dropped the spice level from the original (1 1/2 cups!). Serve it with lots of crusty bread to dip into the delicious sauce.

We ate it as a main course after doubling everything and served it with rosemary sweet potatoes medallions.

I will be returning to their cookbook for other recipes soon!

Cha Cha Cha Cajun Shrimp

1/2 cup Cajun Spice Mix
12 ounce dark beer
2 cups heavy cream
1 lb peeled medium sized shrimp

In a heavy saucepan, mix cajun spice mix and beer. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly with a whisk to make a thick paste. Gradually stir in cream to make a smooth sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce thickens. Add shrimp and stir. Reduce heat and cook shrimp over low heat for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp are opaque. Serve with fresh, crusty bread.

Revisiting Oceana Grill

After Latoya Cantrell’s historic inauguration ceremony, my friends Lisa and Vincenzo and I followed Madam Mayor’s second line out of the Mahalia Jackson theater into Armstrong Park.

Madam Mayor in the light blue dress and white umbrella, stage left

Afterwards, we went seeking sustanence. It was Monday and our first two options weren’t open. We went with number three – Oceana Grill on Conti @ Bourbon. The last time I was here was 8 years ago and it stands the test of time as a casual dining establishment. It was as filled with local workers as tourists and we were served quickly with large portions of good food.

I went with the fried shrimp platter. Lots of them on the plate, plus hushpuppies and french fries. Nice bite to the jalapeno hush puppies and a nice fry on everything else.

Lisa had the Black and Bleu burger with blackening seasoning and blue cheese. Nice and beefy burger with a tangy sauce.

Vincenzo had the seafood platter, pilled high with oysters, catfish, shrimp. Lovely cornmeal batter on the thin and crispy catfish.

The server was friendly and quick with refills. For French Quarter dining, the prices are reasonable. I’d definitely stop by here again.

Oven Baked Shrimp Fajitas

My dad will pull a shrimp trawl several times over the summer and then we get to enjoy Alabama shrimp for the rest of the year. Here is a picture of him sorting the catch – we throw all the small fish back and the dolphins and pelicans come to feast.

This recipe uses a dry spice mix on the veggies and a one hour marinade on the shrimp for a quick, weeknight dinner. I served these on flour tortillas with refried beans, cheese, salsa and guacamole. 

The picture illustrates my family’s preferred shrimp to veggie ratio!

Oven Baked Shrimp Fajitas

1.5 to 2 lbs medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 to 2 14.4 packages of bell pepper and onion stir fry
10 flour tortillas

Shrimp Marinade

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup lime juice
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 cloves minced garlic

Veggie Spice Mix

1 teaspoon of kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 teaspoon of chili powder
1 teaspoon dried cilantro flakes
½ teaspoon of garlic powder
½ teaspoon of onion powder
½ teaspoon of ground cumin
½ teaspoon of smoked paprika

Whisk together all of the ingredients for the shrimp marinade and place in a zip top bag with the peeled and deveined shrimp. Smoosh the bag around to completely coat the shrimp. Place in the fridge for one hour.

Put together the dry spices. Place the veggies in a large bowl and toss with the spice mixture.

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Lightly oil a large, rimmed baking sheet. Put down the veggies as a base layer. Sprinkle the shrimp on top. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 8 minutes. Remove the shrimp and turn on the broiler. Cook for 2 additional minutes until shrimp is done.

Squeeze a little lime juice over the dish and serve with warm tortillas and your choice of add ins.

 

Graham’s Fish Camp

On Highway 588 in Collins, Mississippi there is a small restaurant that does a booming business on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. Only open from 3 to 9 on those nights, Graham’s Fish Camp is packed the entire time.

689 Highway 588. Collins, MS 39428

They start you out with a huge bowl of coleslaw while you look over the menu, although most folks seem to already know what they like. From looking at the other tables, catfish (Mississippi farm raised) was a heavy favorite.

We started with fried dill pickles and onion rings. One of Elvis’ favorite snacks, the dill pickle chips are battered in cornmeal and quite crunchy and tart. The onion rings were thick and hand battered. The baskets are huge, so I’d recommend the half portion sizes.

I had the fried shrimp platter – 12 shrimp, 3 hushpuppies and a mess of French fries. Crunchy batter on flavorful shrimp – quite tasty. The house made tarter sauce was tart and creamy.

Michelle had chicken tenders plus a catfish filet. Thin sliced with a delicious cornmeal batter, it was fresh and clean tasting. I can tell why so many people come here.

They end the meal with soft serve ice cream and your choice of toppings. For as busy as they are, the wait staff is friendly and quick with refills on the drinks and to check to make sure you don’t need anything else. The cost is quite reasonable, too – for under $20 a piece, we had a huge amount of great food. Definitely worth a visit.

Shrimp Quesadillas

I was craving drunken shrimp and decided to put them on flour tortillas to make quesadillas for a quick dinner.

Oh, and feel free to use the remainder of the limeade concentrate to make margaritas. I used drained Ro-Tel juice as part of the liquid for Spanish rice.

Shrimp Quesadillas

1 lb medium shrimp – peeled, deveined and butterflied
1 tablespoon paprika
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 cup limeade concentrate
1/2 cup tequila
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 cups Monterey pepper jack or cheddar cheese, grated
1 10 ounce can of Ro-tel diced tomatoes and green chilies, drained
8 flour tortillas

Combine paprika, garlic, salt, pepper, cumin, limeade and tequila and mix well. Place shrimp in marinade and refrigerate for no more than one hour.

Heat a large skillet with the oil and sauté shrimp and the marinade until shrimp are cooked through. Remove from heat.

Place 4 tortillas on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with cheese. Arrange shrimp on tortillas and sprinkle on Ro-Tel. Top with more cheese. Place remaining tortillas on top.

Bake until the tortilla is crisp and golden brown and the cheese is melted and bubbly, about 5 minutes at 450 degrees F. Let sit for 2 minutes and then cut into slices. Serve with guacamole, salsa and sour cream and a side of Spanish rice.

I basically do a cheat for the Spanish rice. This is enough for two people. Bring 1/3 cup of drained Ro-Tel juices and 1/3 cup water to a boil. Add two tablespoons of Ro-Tel diced tomatoes and green chilies, 1/4 teaspoon each of garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and ground cumin to 1/3 cup rice. Stir well, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until all the water is absorbed and serve.

Seared Shrimp and Artichokes With Rosemary Lemon Beurre Blanc

My next door neighbor sometimes gets shrimp from a buddy of his from Plaquemines Parish. I bought a pound of very fresh shrimp off of him and then stared into the refrigerator. I had cream, butter, lemons and a huge bunch of rosemary – guess it is time to make a beurre blanc sauce.

White butter sauce is decadently rich. It gets some of its velvety texture from stirring in the final bit of butter off the heat (and it keeps the sauce from breaking). The original recipe used 2 sticks of butter but you won’t miss the 4 tablespoons I left out. The limoncello adds a sweetness to the dish but, once you add the shrimp and artichokes and pasta, it will be perfectly balanced,

shrimp

Seared Shrimp and Artichokes with Rosemary Lemon Beurre Blanc

1 small sweet onion (like Vidalia), minced (about 1/3 cup onion)
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, divided
1/2 cup limoncello or white wine
2/3 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons fresh chopped rosemary leaves
1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes

1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice plus zest of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 box frozen artichoke hearts (or a can, drained)

Add onion, 3 tablespoons lemon juice and limoncello to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce until you have 4 tablespoons worth. Then add the cream, rosemary and salt and pepper. Cook until the cream is reduced by half. Reduce the heat and slowly whisk in one stick of the cold butter, a few cubes at a time, making sure that they dissolve completely before adding more. When it is entirely incorporated and has the consistency of a hollandaise sauce, take the saucepan completely off the heat and whisk in the remainder 4 tablespoons of butter and final tablespoon of lemon juice. This will ensure that the sauce will stay creamy, and the butter won’t break. Adjust seasonings.

While the cream is reducing, toss shrimp in olive oil and lemon juice to coat. Combine lemon zest and coarse salt. Sprinkle lemon salt over the shrimp with a few grinds of black pepper.

After the sauce is made, coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with oil and heat over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the shrimp and sear on each side until lightly golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove to a plate. Sauté the artichokes in the same pan until warmed through. Set with the shrimp.

Toss shrimp and artichoke hearts with rosemary lemon beurre blanc and serve with pasta. We used angle hair pasta.