A summer barbecue in New Orleans can make you feel like the main course. My idea is to cook something that goes on the grill for a matter of minutes, putting you back in the air-conditioning or pool as quickly as possible.
For the hottest of days, shrimp wrapped in bacon with roasted vegetables on the side is my go-to meal. Grilling time is literally 15 minutes. Yes, there’s some prep time wrapping up all those shrimp in bacon, but it’s worth it. I liken it to grilling oysters on the half shell in the late fall when, in a matter of minutes, you are feasting on one of the best dishes in the world.
Give me a moment to reflect. Unless you have lived somewhere else before moving to New Orleans, you just don’t realize how lucky we are to have this quality and magnitude of seafood at our fingertips.
Roasting vegetables has become the easiest and tastiest way to eat our most healthful food. Simply roasted in the oven, they retain their juices and crisp up on the edges. When barbecuing, a grilling basket serves this purpose well. Brush the veggies with extra-virgin olive oil and cook a few minutes or until lightly browning. Large vegetables, such as Portobello mushrooms, eggplant and corn, can be brushed and placed directly on the grill without a basket.
I like non-stick grilling baskets, which are usually available in the summers where kitchenware is sold. If you have a large grill, shrimp and veggies can be done at the same time.
When shrimp wrapped in bacon with roasted vegetables are on the menu, the meal should be served casually on paper plates with cold beer and wine. That’s summer dining.
On the Side
Hot Off the Grill
For fish on the grill, use non-stick grilling baskets for small fillets, which can otherwise stick and fall apart. Brush well with olive oil or melted butter. To grill whole fish, place directly on the grill. Use firm-fleshed fish such as snapper or redfish, sprinkle with salt and pepper, brush with olive oil, place well above the flame and roast on both sides until just done. Move fish about with a spatula, and don’t overcook. Check with a knife in the thickest part and taste to determine doneness.
Shrimp wrapped in bacon
3 pounds raw large (16-20 count) head-on shrimp, or 2 pounds peeled and deveined frozen
½ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons horseradish
4 good shots Worcestershire sauce
4 good shots Tabasco sauce
Juice of ½ lemon
1 pound regular-sliced bacon
Toothpicks or skewers
1. Peel and devein shrimp. Or, thaw if using frozen.
2. To make cocktail sauce, mix ketchup, horseradish, Worcestershire, Tabasco and lemon juice.
3. Cut bacon strips into thirds. Wrap each shrimp in a piece of bacon and spear with two toothpicks. Or put on skewers.
3. Clean and oil a grill, preferably charcoal, and heat to hot.
4. Place grill several inches above hot coals or flames, and cook until bacon is browning on one side. Turn and cook until bacon is crispy on all sides, about 15 minutes. If in doubt about doneness, cut into the large part and taste. Shrimp should be done when bacon is crispy. Serve immediately with cocktail sauce for dipping. Serves a crowd as appetizer or 6 to 8 as entrée.
2 yellow squash
2 zucchini squash
½ pound asparagus
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt, pepper and Creole seasoning
1 small eggplant
Several large Portobello mushrooms
Fresh rosemary leaves, roughly chopped (optional)
1. Cut squash into 1/4-inch slices and asparagus into 1-inch pieces. Place in a bowl and toss with half the olive oil and seasonings. Place on greased grilling basket.
2. Peel and slice eggplant into ½-inch circles. Brush both sides of eggplant slices and Portobello mushrooms with remaining oil and sprinkle with seasonings.
3. Place basket of vegetables and eggplant and mushrooms directly on hot grill and roast, turning occasionally, until fork tender. Vegetables should be fork tender but slightly crisp in about 15 minutes. Sprinkle with fresh rosemary just before taking up, if desired. Serve immediately. Serves 6 to 8.