Mardi Gras mecca New Orleans may not be the first city you think of as an idyllic winter holiday destination, but that delicious, charming city will be forever part of my Christmas memories thanks to an impromptu trip my and husband and took the week before the 25th. With both of our parents on the East Coast (and 10 hours apart, respectively), our holidays, for better or for worse, have become dominated by intense travel and complicated itineraries. We have to be creative in terms of creating our own traditions and this year we bucked trends by 1) celebrating not on the 25th and 2) broadly proclaiming, "there are OTHER places than home for the holidays."
With limited time and a shared aversion to embarking on even more airline travel, we drove to New Orleans. Weddings, bachelor parties, and other events with friends had brought us to the city on multiple past occasions, but this time it was just us. We admired the streetside decorations, sampled holiday cocktails (such as one "bourbon punch" that contained more of the former rather than the latter), and ate more than six dozen oysters over three days.
When we returned home, I added to my ever growing list of New Year's resolutions the goal of not only visiting New Orleans more frequently but also cooking more NOLA-inspired food at home. But as I am not a chef nor even an above-average home cook, I still require culinary "training wheels," which is why I lept at the chance to make some BBQ shrimp with a little help from Big Al.
Apparently, over four decades ago New Orleans resident "Big Al" Bach developed a secret recipe for barbeque shrimp that eventually was used by many of the city's most popular residents. The recipe was assumed lost, but recently his daughter, Pearland resident Kim Gross, discovered hand-written instructions for the famous dish. Now, the family is manufacturing a series of sauces, rubs, and concentrates based on Big Al's cuisine, including, of course, his famous BBQ shrimp.
The recipe, which I modified slightly, is based on instructions on the side of the jar:
New Orleans BBQ Shrimp
1 pound shrimp (peeled or sell on) 6 Tbs butter 3 Tbs Big Al's BBQ Shrimp Concentrate (which can be purchased online or found at some Spec's) 1/4 cup diced onions
Melt 1 Tbs of butter in a saucepan (medium to large). Saute onions until soft but not completely translucent. Add remaining 5 Tbs of butter and 3 Tbs of Concentrate. Slowly melt on low to medium temperature until all are combined. Add shrimp and simmer until pink.
Big Al suggests serving it with warm French bread for dipping, but I opted for some leftover turmeric rice.
What? I can't be expected to make shrimp AND bread in one day. Baby steps, people.