When we decided to feature shrimp for our cover feature, my mind began working like a script from Forrest Gump. Bubba on shrimp, that is. “Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can boil it, bake it, pan fry it, deep fry it, stir fry it; put it in stew, gumbo or salad; make shrimp Creole, coconut shrimp, barbecued shrimp …”

And it didn’t stop there. Shrimp recipes from around the world could be counted into the hundreds. Then how could I pick seven? In the end I settled on variations of local favorites, some with new twists and others, tried and true, that we can’t live without.

Meanwhile, I checked with local experts and found out that the peak of shrimp season is May, June and early July, followed by another surge in the fall. The whole story is that shrimp are always available in south Louisiana, no matter how far out the shrimpers have to go to fill up their boats.

And if you want to provoke a person in the seafood industry, just say the word “imports.” Then run the other way. According to authorities such as the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board, imports are the cause of any problem we have, from higher costs of Louisiana’s catch to scarcity at the marketplace.

“Imports are flooding our market, and that’s our biggest problem,” says Scott Couvillon, a LSPMB representative. “American seafood is a higher quality,” he claims, while imports contain additives and are marketed with fewer restrictions.

“Know what you’re getting,” advises Thomas Hymel, a marine agent with the LSU Extension Service and the Louisiana Sea Grant program. And what’s the best way to do that? “Direct from the fishermen,” Hymel says.

If only I could go to a boat and purchase the seafood right out of the water, I would.

Well, that may change, he says. According to Hymel, a dramatically successful fishermen-to-consumer project in Delcambre, south of Lafayette, is leading the way to establishing direct markets, some near New Orleans in fishing areas such as Lafitte. My dream come true!    It hasn’t been long since my husband and I regularly drove to Lafitte when the boats came in and loaded up on fresh shrimp. What we didn’t cook, we froze. Alas, the boats became harder and harder to locate, and we finally stopped going.

Last year fishermen sold 360,000 pounds, $1 million worth of seafood, directly to the public at the port areas near Delcambre.

“It’s just a matter of communities and fishing industries getting together,” Hymel says.

Approximately 30 percent of wild-caught shrimp in the United States are landed in Louisiana, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. Nearly half of Louisiana’s brown shrimp harvest peaks in May and June, while white shrimp landings peak in the fall. Seventy percent of Louisiana’s annual shrimp landings are caught in state waters with the rest harvested offshore in federal waters or in waters of other states. When seasons are restricted to allow shrimp growing periods, shrimpers go to deeper waters and flash freeze their catch. Sometimes their boats are out for weeks at a time, but new-age equipment keeps shrimp at ultra-low temperatures and at top quality for marketing.

Meanwhile, the next best way to shop is at seafood markets you can trust. Ask when the shrimp came in and where they came from. Get to know your market personnel and cater to those you trust. You might also make requests about the seafood you want. Last year brought unprecedented low prices at the dock, and the more locals buy local the better the prices will be, says Hymel.

I am a happy camper with the large shrimp that I buy for $5.99 a pound at a local market, because I know my friends in New York are paying two and three times that amount. When I visit my daughter in California and friends in Kansas and Atlanta, I can hardly find fresh shrimp, and what I find is at incredible prices.

We are lucky indeed to live in the heart of seafood estuaries near the great open Gulf of Mexico. Perhaps we should take the industry’s advice with a nod to our shrimpers when we put our money where our appetite is.


Shrimp Salad in Lettuce Wraps

2 pounds shrimp (any size) in the shell or 1 pound frozen shelled
1/3 cup minced red onion
1/3 cup minced celery
1/3 cup minced flat-leaf parsley
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
½ teaspoon dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
½ teaspoon Creole seasoning
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 Tablespoon Creole mustard
6 Iceberg or Boston (butter) whole lettuce leaves, rinsed and refrigerated

If using shrimp in shells, boil according to instructions in accompanying recipe. If buying frozen peeled raw shrimp, bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Season liberally with Creole seasoning. Cook shrimp at a full boil for 1 minute. Remove shrimp immediately. Another alternative is to buy boiled shrimp in the shell and peel them. In any case, peel and devein shrimp.

 Chop shrimp roughly and place in a medium bowl. Add onion, celery, parsley, lemon juice, dill, seasonings, mayonnaise and mustard. Mix well and refrigerate.

Divide shrimp salad into 6 portions and wrap each portion in a lettuce leaf. Place wraps seam side down on a platter or serve lettuce and salad separately and let diners prepare their own.

This makes a wonderful light lunch or first course for dinner, and also makes a good stuffing for avocado halves.

Serves 6 as appetizer or 3 as entrée


Shrimp and Bacon Kebabs With Spicy Cheese Grits

2 pounds large shrimp
10 slices regular-cut bacon
1 cup stone-ground grits
3 Tablespoons butter
1 Tablespoon minced fresh jalapeno pepper
2/3 cup extra-sharp Cheddar cheese grated
Peel and devein shrimp.

Cut bacon strips into thirds. Wrap each shrimp in a piece of bacon, lapping the edges. Using metal kebab skewers, thread shrimp onto skewers so that the skewer holds bacon on shrimp. Each skewer should have about 6 shrimp.

Prepare grits according to package directions and salt to taste. Heat butter in a small skillet and sauté jalapeno pepper over low heat for 1 minute. When grits are done, add butter and cheese. When melted, stir, cover and keep warm.

Prepare a charcoal or gas grill fire until hot. Place skewers approximately 6 inches above fire and cook until bacon is done. Turn skewers as they brown. The bacon will season the shrimp.

Remove shrimp onto plates and serve with grits. This makes a wonderful combination.

Serves 4


Shrimp and Eggplant Linguini

1 small to medium eggplant, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 pounds large shrimp
4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 bunch green onions, chopped, white and green parts divided
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ cup dry white wine
Juice of ½ lemon
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1/2 pound linguini
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus more for sprinkling

Place eggplant cubes on a plate and sprinkle with salt. Place another plate over the eggplant and set aside to let eggplant release water, draining occasionally for about 30 minutes.
Peel and devein shrimp.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

When eggplant has sweated, drain and tap dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with pepper. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil to a high temperature in a large skillet. Sauté the eggplant cubes over medium-high heat in a single layer, turning, until done and well-browned. Take up on paper towels. Keep warm by wrapping in foil and placing in a warm oven.

In the remaining 2 Tablespoons of oil, sauté the white onions until translucent, add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add shrimp and sauté until they turn pink. Add seasonings, wine and lemon juice and simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in parsley and green onion tops.

Meanwhile, cook linguini until al dente, or just done. Drain and place in large bowl. Toss with eggplant, Parmesan and shrimp. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with extra Parmesan.

Serves 4


Cajun Shrimp Stew

2 pounds large shrimp
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 onion, chopped
4 green onions, chopped, white and green parts divided
½ bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 large Creole tomatoes, peeled and chopped, or 1 14.5-ounce can whole plum tomatoes, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly grated black pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
2 teaspoons each fresh basil and thyme leaves, chopped, or 1 teaspoon each dried basil leaves and thyme
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
¼ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Peel and devein shrimp.

Melt butter in a medium pot, add flour and stir over medium-high heat to make a light brown roux. Add white onions, bell pepper and celery, and sauté over medium heat for several minutes. Add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add tomatoes, ½ cup water and seasonings, cover and simmer over low heat for 15 minutes.

Add shrimp and corn and continue to simmer, stirring often, until shrimp are just done, about 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf. Remove from heat and stir in green onion tops and parsley. Serve over rice.

Serves 6


Vietnamese Hot and Sour Shrimp Soup

1 pound shrimp
3 stalks lemongrass
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
3 green onions, chopped, white and green parts separated
3 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
Zest of 1 lime
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Tablespoons fish sauce
½ teaspoon chili oil
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sugar
1 small to medium firm tomato, cut lengthwise into 8 slices
1 heaping cup white, shiitake or oyster mushrooms, stems trimmed if needed
Sea salt if needed
2 cups cooked long-grain white rice or basmati
2 cups bean sprouts

Peel and devein shrimp, reserving shells and heads.

Cut 1 inch off the larger end of the lemongrass and discard. Remove dry outside leaves. Cut green tops from lemongrass, leaving about 4 inches of white. Chop the green ends and use for stock. Remove tough outer edges of white and mince by hand or in food processor. Use a cleaver or heavy knife to pound both green and white parts of lemongrass to release oils.

 Place shrimp peelings and green lemongrass in a medium pot, cover with 5 cups of water and simmer for 30 minutes to make a stock.

Heat vegetable oil in a small skillet and sauté the white part of green onions until translucent. Add garlic slices and sauté until golden. Drain and set aside.

Strain stock into a medium pot and discard shells and stalks. To the stock, add the sautéed onions and garlic, vinegar, lime zest and juice, fish sauce, chili oil, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes and sugar and bring to a boil. Add tomato, mushrooms and white lemongrass, and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Add shrimp, bring to a boil and boil for 1 minute. Taste and add salt if needed. Remove from heat and keep warm.

To serve, place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of rice in bowls. Add a small to medium handful of bean sprouts to each bowl, pour soup over bean sprouts and garnish with green onion tops.

Serves 6 as appetizer or 4 as entrée


Barbecued Shrimp

3 pounds large shrimp with heads on
2 sticks butter
8 large cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Creole seasoning
10 grinds on a pepper mill
1 Tablespoon Tabasco original hot sauce
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
½ cup lemon juice
½ cup white wine
1 Tablespoon liquid hickory smoke

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Rinse shrimp lightly being careful not to rinse away any fat in the heads as this is an essential ingredient. Drain.

In a 13-by-9-inch baking dish or pan, melt butter in oven. Add garlic and cook for several minutes. Take pan out of oven and mix in remaining ingredients. Add shrimp and stir until all shrimp are coated. Return to oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. When shrimp pull away from the shells they’re done. Taste for doneness after about 20 minutes and continue until just done. Do not overcook. Remove from oven and let shrimp soak about 10 minutes before serving. Serve in bowls with French bread for dipping.

Serves 6 to 8


Boiled Shrimp

3 gallons water
2/3 cups crab and shrimp boiling seasoning, such as Zatarain’s
1 dozen or more small red potatoes
5 pounds large shrimp, heads on
4 ears fresh corn, snapped into halves
Juice of 1 lemon

Bring water to a boil in a large pot. Add seasoning and boil for 10 minutes. Add potatoes and cook until almost fork-tender. Add shrimp and corn, and bring water back to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and soak for 10 minutes. Drain and serve.

Serves 6

Boiling shrimp is similar to boiling crawfish, but it can be done inside on top of the stove in smaller amounts. Leave out the corn and potatoes and use the shrimp in any number of appetizers – shrimp remoulade, shrimp ravigote or shrimp salad-stuffed avocados. When serving crawfish-style, I like to accompany the shrimp with a cocktail sauce made of horseradish, ketchup, lemon juice, Worcestershire and Tabasco. This can also be served as classic shrimp cocktails.