Thursday, May 29, 2008

For everything, there is a season: shrimp

Anyone going to the Redneck Riviera has seen scores of signs for fresh shrimp to take home with "we pack to travel" signs scrawled on the sides of sheds. The Gulf Coast is all about shrimp. And few cities do shrimp as well and as varied as do the folks in NOLA.

Warning: Rant coming.

The Gulf Coast shrimping industry has taken a whacking in recent years -- not just from boats wrecked by Hurricane Katrina but by farm-raised, imported shrimp from Asia. Reports of pesticides, antibiotics, chemicals and bleaching agents abound about the import shrimp industry, and the foodie advocates who keep up with monitoring production are alarmed at the amount of laxness that goes into inspecting the factory farms that churn this stuff out and send it over here, as well as the way it is produced. One image from a foreign corresponent summed it up nicely: Here's your Asian shrimp "farm," which sounds bucolic, until you look next to the artificially "clean" water and see there's a dying rice field because of all the chemical residue from the shrimp vats.

Other reasons to be asking your grocer where your shrimp comes from abound.

End rant. Back to our story on shrimp.

The arrival of the season’s fresh shrimp is always a cause for celebration. Because shrimp is available year-round, it’s easy to overlook the pleasures of enjoying it at the peak of freshness. Locally caught Gulf shrimp boasts a distinguishing taste thanks to its native waters and the nutrients upon which it feeds in the wild. Summer is the perfect time to savor this “bayou gold.”

“This year, Louisiana is expected to bring in over 100 million pounds of shrimp for the season," said Ewell Smith, Executive Director at Louisiana Seafood Board. “I encourage everyone to purchase the freshest catch from a neighborhood source to help keep our regional economy strong.”

“Growing up in South Louisiana, I've always loved the flavor of Gulf Coast shrimp – and I can't imagine shrimp season without a traditional shrimp boil made with Zatarain's. Each year, the fresh catch reaffirms my passion for local ingredients and our regional cooking – and provides a natural excuse to enjoy them,” said John Besh, chef/owner at Restaurant August in New Orleans. (You might remember him from being on The Next Iron Chef on Food Network. He's also a promotional spokesman for the "My Louisiana" tourism spots that are just too cool.)

Besides the classic shrimp boil, there are other peak seasonal ingredients that make great complements to the fresh catch. Summer sweet corn beautifully mirrors

Gulf shrimp’s inherent sweetness in Chef Besh’s Shrimp and Crab Fritters with Creole Tomato Dressing. And, the delectable flavor of fresh green tomatoes are a perfect foil for his take on remoulade in Pan-Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade.

New Orleans-Style cuisine has always centered on fresh seafood caught in local waters, with rich and distinctive flavor combinations like traditional New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp. There are many twists on this classic – and none would dare include barbecue sauce! A perfect way to celebrate shrimp season, this rich and zesty “Big Easy” favorite – bursting with the flavors of Worcestershire sauce, Zatarain’s Creole seasoning, cracked black pepper and beer – is perfect for sopping up with lots of crusty bread.

Shrimp and Crab Fritters with Creole Tomato Dressing

Recipe created by John Besh, Executive Chef of Restaurant August, New Orleans

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Refrigerate: 1 hour
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Creole Tomato Dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 small Creole tomato, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic
2 tablespoons Creole Mustard
3/4 teaspoon Creole Seasoning

Shrimp and Crab Fritters:
1 cup (1/2 package) Hush Puppy Mix
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon Creole Seasoning
1/2 cup water
1/4 pound claw crabmeat
1/4 pound cooked peeled small shrimp, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup thawed frozen corn
Vegetable oil (for frying)

FOR THE DRESSING, place all ingredients in food processor; cover. Process until smooth. Spoon into small bowl. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors.

FOR THE FRITTERS, mix Hush Puppy Mix, onion, garlic, chives and Creole Seasoning in large bowl. Add water; mix just until moistened. Gently stir in crabmeat, shrimp and corn.

POUR oil into heavy skillet, filling no more than 1/3 full. Heat to 375°F on medium heat. Drop batter by heaping tablespoonfuls, a few at a time, into hot oil. Fry 3 to 4 minutes or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Serve fritters with Creole Tomato Dressing.

Makes 8 servings.

Pan-Fried Green Tomatoes with Shrimp Remoulade

Recipe created by John Besh, Executive Chef of Restaurant August, New Orleans

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Refrigerate: 1 hour
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Shrimp Remoulade:
1 quart water
4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 pounds medium shrimp (40 to 50 count), peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon Concentrated Shrimp & Crab Boil
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cupCreole Mustard
1 shallot, minced
1 tablespoon Creole Seasoning
1 tablespoon Prepared Horseradish
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon celery salt

Green Tomatoes:
1 cup Zatarain's Seasoned Shrimp-Fri
3 large green tomatoes, each cut into 4 slices (1/2-inch thick)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup canola oil, for frying
Creole Seasoning (optional)

FOR THE REMOULADE, bring water and salt to boil in medium saucepan. Add shrimp and Shrimp & Crab Boil; return to boil. Remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Drain shrimp well. Cool to room temperature. Coarsely chop shrimp. Mix remaining Remoulade ingredients in large bowl until well blended. Add shrimp; mix well. Cover. Refrigerate at least 1 hour to blend flavors.

FOR THE TOMATOES, place Shrimp-Fri in shallow dish. Dip tomato slices in buttermilk to moisten. Coat on both sides with Shrimp-Fri.

HEAT 1/4 cup of the oil in large skillet on medium heat. Fry tomato slices, a few at a time, 2 to 3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle tomato slices lightly with Creole Seasoning, if desired. Keep warm while frying remaining tomato slices, adding remaining 1/4 cup oil as needed. Serve Fried Green Tomatoes topped with Shrimp Remoulade.

Makes 6 servings.

New Orleans Barbecue Shrimp

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoons Creole Seasoning
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon coarse ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon rosemary leaves, crushed
1 pound large shrimp (26 to 30 count)
3/4 cup beer, at room temperature

MELT butter with Worcestershire sauce, Creole Seasoning, garlic, pepper and rosemary in large skillet on medium-high heat. Add shrimp; cook and stir 2 minutes.

POUR beer into skillet. Cook and stir 3 minutes longer or just until shrimp turn pink. Serve immediately with French bread.

Makes 4 servings.

Since 1889, Zatarain's has been an authority on the fun and flavor of New Orleans. From its humble beginnings producing root beer extract, the company has grown to make more than 200 food products from Rice Dinner Mixes, Pasta Dinner Mixes, Breadings, Seasonings and Spices to Seafood Boils, Creole Mustard and other products based on authentic New Orleans–Style foods and seafood preparation. Now, people around the world recognize that to capture the true flavor of New Orleans–Style cuisine, you have to "Jazz It Up with Zatarain's." For information, recipes and Zatarain’s online store, visit the Web site.