Classic New Orleans style shrimp dish served in a rich sauce with a trinity of vegetables over a serving of creamy grits.
The name of this dish can be misleading if you’ve never had it before. Most people think of grilled meats when they think of BBQ, but this is a dish that gets its name because of the rich sauce that contains some ingredients often found in barbecue sauces. There are recipes with tomato products, but I prefer this rich and flavorful sauce.
The first time I tried a version of this dish, my taste buds went into happy overload. The dish represents all that I love about Louisiana’s Creole culture. It’s rich and spicy. The mixture of African, French, German and Native American influences in Creole cooking is what keeps me coming back to this genre. My mother was raised in Northern Louisiana, which has a strong Southern foodways, but I gravitate towards the foods of New Orleans and its surroundings. I’m also a seafood lover and there aren’t many dishes in Creole cuisine that don’t have one form of seafood. Shrimp is so versatile to many flavors and this dish lets them retain a crunchy texture since it’s a quick saute.
If the steps to create this dish seem overwhelming, just know that it’s worth the effort. The spice mixture and the sauce can be made a few days in advance. Once those components are ready, the rest goes fast. I like to emphasize how different this dish is from gumbo, which is a slow cooking stew where all of the vegetables and proteins break down and become tender. Most gumbos are best cooked for hours and hours. A little perspective always helps.
Recipe: Creole BBQ Shrimp & Grits
Makes 4 servings
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- ¼ cup each green and red bell pepper, diced
- ¼ cup scallions or green onions, thinly sliced
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Creole spice (see recipe below)
- 1-½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ¾ cup Creole sauce (see recipe below)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- White Cheddar Grits (see recipe below)
Heat oil in a large sauté pan until shimmering. Add bell peppers, scallions/green onions, and garlic. Add shrimp, sprinkle with Creole spice and sear on one side. Turn shrimp and sprinkle with Creole spice then sauté until vegetables are softened, about five minutes. Add Creole sauce and cream, and bring to a simmer. When shrimp are cooked through, add butter and lemon juice. Toss in spinach, a handful at a time, stirring to coat with sauce and wilt the spinach. Serve immediately with prepared white cheddar grits.
Recipe: Creole Sauce
Makes about 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 scallions or green onions, white parts only, chopped
- 1 teaspoon minced garlic
- 1 12-ounce bottle hefeweizen (wheat beer)
- ¾ cup Worcestershire sauce
Melt butter in a small saucepan. Add scallions/green onions and garlic and sweat over low heat until softened, about five minutes. Add beer and Worcestershire sauce and increase heat to medium high. Simmer and reduce sauce to a syrupy consistency, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Refrigerate any extra sauce.
Recipe: Creole Spice
Makes about ½ cup
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Store extra spice in an airtight container at room temperature.
White Cheddar Grits
Makes about 6 servings
- 1 cup/140 g quick-cooking grits
- 3 tablespoons heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 cup/240 ml grated sharp white cheddar cheese (about ¾ pound/170 g)
- 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
- Pinch of white pepper
- Bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Whisk in grits and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes. Stir in cream, butter, and cheese, and season with salt and pepper.
- Cover and keep warm over very low heat until serving.