It was a bit cold last night, so rethought going outdoors to cook dinner. Instead, I cooked the shrimp on the grill pan on the stove top. The timing is the same.
I used my go to cheat – a bottle of Cajun Power Garlic Sauce on the shrimp. This isn’t a hot sauce but so well seasoned that it goes well with chicken, pork, seafood and even vegetables.
It was good to have friends over to enjoy the meal. Jess, Julie and Nancy helped warm up the house with laughter and good conversation. And, thanks again to Kenny for leaving the gallon jug of margarita’s – they were a hit!
1.5 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup Cajun Power Garlic Sauce
If using wood skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes before grilling.
In a bowl, mix the shrimp with the Cajun Power Garlic Sauce. Toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill, up to 2 hours.
Skewer shrimp and place on a medium hot grill or a preheated grill pan. Grill about 3 minutes per side or until they are opaque throughout.
I placed the shrimp on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes – quite a tasty accompaniment and a switch from the pasta I would have usually served with them.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
2 lb. sweet potatoes (roasted and peeled), warm
1 stick butter, softened
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
Roast sweet potatoes in a 350 degree F oven for 45 minutes or until done. Scoop out interiors and place in a bowl.
Mash together sweet potatoes, butter, milk, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Taste and add more brown sugar, cinnamon or salt, if needed. Keep warm until ready to serve.
Place warm sweet potato mixture on plates. Arrange shrimp on top.
Shrimp and grits is a perfect food pairing. I’ve posted about making them before (here and here) and many more times when I’ve eaten them at restaurants. This time, I’m poaching the shrimp in butter (a la Michael Ruhlman). I can recommend this preparation (even without the grits) as it makes the shrimp velvety and delicious.
When the poaching liquid is combined with the grits, you end up with a dish that is rich, decadent but still quintessentially southern.
Butter Poached Shrimp with Grits
4 strips bacon, diced
1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
1 1/4 cups grits (not instant)
2 cups milk
2 cups water
1 cup butter, cut into 12 chunks
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon Cajun/Creole seasoning
Heat a medium sized saucepan over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until slightly crisp and brown. Remove the bacon and set aside. In the bacon fat remaining in the pan, sauté the onion. Cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Add in bell pepper and cook for just a minute or two. Pour in milk and water and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the grits and a pinch of kosher salt. Reduce the heat to low and cook the grits, stirring occasionally, until done, about 20 minutes.
Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of water and bring to a simmer. Then whisk in the chunks of butter, one at a time until all are incorporated and you have an emulsion. Add the shrimp and then moderate the temperature to keep the butter just below simmering (170-180 degrees F). Poach the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Take the shrimp off the heat.
Add half of the poaching butter to the grits. Stir and add Cajun/Creole seasoning. Taste for seasoning. Spoon the grits into bowls, add the shrimp, sprinkle on the diced bacon and drizzle on a little more of the poaching butter. Serve.
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.
Orange Beach, Alabama
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.
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.
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
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.
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.