You know, I've never figured out exactly how shrimp steeped in a wonderfully flavorful, spiced butter sauce got the label barbecue, but I don't think anybody's complaining.
A big key is finding the right size of shrimp. Sure, can make this work with any size, as long as you get the sauce right and have lots of French bread for dipping (probably the real star of this dish if we're all being honest). But ideally, you want to start with 16-20 count shrimp, and you also want to leave those heads and shells on. Sure, in a restaurant if you want barbecue shrimp you probably want to skip the whole bib exercise -- because lord knows peeling shrimp coated in butter and spices is messy enough. But if you're making this at home, who are you trying to impress?
I'm a fan of keeping the shrimp intact for this, because you do get some flavor out of the fat that's in that first section of the head. Not that this is a recipe that needs more fat with EIGHT STICKS of butter going in. Definitely not something you'd want to make on the regular, I just happened to have access to some good shrimp and some company visiting.
Still, the sauce is the star here, so work with what you can find.
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp dried thyme leaves
1 tbsp coarse ground black pepper (fresh if possible)
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 cup worcestshire sauce
6 oz beer
juice of 2 lemons, plus 1 tbsp of zest
16 oz of chicken broth
6 green onions, chopped
2 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
2 lbs - 8 sticks of butter
Everybody has a take on this -- some like to go heavy on the lemon juice, some prefer the worcestshire flavor more. I like to balance it, especially with lots of rosemary and thyme. The red and yellow bell peppers provide a little bit of color. I worked through a couple of different recipes, largely this one from Gumbo Pages to get the right proportions.
Above else, make sure you have some good warm, crusty French bread on hand to dip the sauce in. Some places like to serve this over its own starch, like grits or even gnocchi -- but much like coming up with the right seasoning blend, I say go as the spirit moves you.
1. You're going to start out just making a base for the sauce. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet -- this is a one-pot dish -- over medium-high heat and add your onions and bell peppers and sauté until wilted.
2. From there, you'll add all of your dry seasonings, lemon zest, the three stalks worth of green onions and 1 tbsp of the parsley, plus the garlic. Stir well and mix, then sauté until the mixture really starts to get good and fragrant.
3. Deglaze your pan with the beer, mixing well. I recommend a darker beer like an amber or brown ale -- I used NOLA's Brown Ale for this, but your mileage may vary. A really darker stout may overpower though. Leave the portion you're going to cook out overnight if you can, and let it flatten out. Concentrates the flavors more.
4. Reduce heat to medium and add the seafood stock -- if you have some fresh shrimp stock that's great, but I just worked with store-bought -- worcestshire and lemon juice. Simmer the mixture until it reduces by about half or so. You'll want to taste it some, and if it's sweeter than you like from the worcestshire, add a little extra lemon juice to balance it out.
5. From there, start to add the butter, pieces at a time, nothing larger than half a stick. Mix it all well as the butter melts, because you'll want to try and keep everything as suspended as possible so it's all well mixed.
6. Add your shrimp in, make sure they're good and covered and simmer for anywhere from 5-10 minutes, until the shrimp are good and curled. Once you suspect everything is cooked, cut the heat off quickly, because if shell-on shrimp overcook they become really hard to peel. Some like to do this in the oven, but I like having the control of the stove. Throw the remaining parsley and green onions on as a garnish.
This will feed at least 4 people, and make sure you have lots of bread on hand.