The Best Ways to Enjoy Gulf Shrimp This Weekend

Sizzling Garlic Shrimp. Station 6.

 

With potential atmospheric calamities threatening to enter the Gulf, record-breaking temperatures, nowhere to go and nothing to do, continuing record high unemployment, a barbaric election cycle, and COVID  – a most unwelcome guest now bearing the stench of nearly six-month-old raw sewage – bright moments can be hard to find.

Bright moments arrived all along the Gulf Coast this week in the form of the Autumn inshore brown shrimp season. With a sweet briny flavor and toothsome translucent flesh, wild-caught Gulf shrimp are sought after world-wide for their unrivaled flavor and quality. White and pink shrimp will arrive in late fall when the water cools.

How fortuitous that these exceptional specimens are currently available to us in great abundance and at thrifty prices. The Louisiana shrimping industry (they could use some love right now, too) is responsible for a 120 million pound haul.

Opened in 2016 by Chef Allison Vega Knoll, Station 6 (105 Metairie Hammond Highway, Bucktown, 504-345-2936, station6nola.com) features updated takes on the kind of humble seafood dishes once found at Bucktown’s many small family-oriented joints. The sleek interior of Station 6 opens onto a front patio adored in colorful foliage with a horizontal-slatted wooden fence that manages, through little glimpses, to turn the most-reassuring pumping station just behind it into shadowy public art. Get the sizzling garlic shrimp. Jumbo, screamingly fresh Gulf shrimp arrive sizzling in a ceramic vessel with butter, capers, loads of garlic, lemon, Parmesan, and bread rounds to mop up the sauce. This mind-blowing-ly good dish is not to be missed.

Crustaceans, including shrimp, grow by shedding their shells and growing into new ones that they secrete around themselves. For a brief period of time the new shells are soft and edible. The molting process is most familiar with soft shell blue crabs, largely because soft shell shrimp are much harder to come by. They are visually almost indiscernible from shrimp that are not molting and they don’t keep or transport well and deteriorate quickly. Shrimpers hoard them for themselves. On the rare occasion when I have seen the precious specimens offered at a restaurant it has been as a special with a hefty price tag attached. This changed the first time I went to Perino’s Boiling Pot (3754 Westbank Expy, Harvey, 504-340-5560, perinosboilingpot.com). Here, soft shell shrimp are offered as an appetizer every day on the printed, laminated menu. To make such an audacious move the Perino family needs the assurance of an infallible source for those rare specimens. The soft shell shrimp on offer at their eponymous  eatery are brilliantly fresh and briny, fried with only the thinnest of crackly batters that serves to accent the shrimp’s natural flavor. What’s more, they are offered for a relatively thrifty price of $15.98 for a dozen. Pass on the ketchup and tartar sauce for this feast: no enhancements are needed.

The best place to buy shrimp to take home? Rouses’ (numerous locations) if I want IQF (Individual Quick Frozen), pre-peeled specimens. Because I hate to peel shrimp. Otherwise, I am headed to what some call the Seafood Lot (Westwego Seafood (or Shrimp) Lot, 100 Westbank Expressway, or 361 Louisiana St, Westwego – the address depends on which side of the parking lot the business in question is located), others the Shrimp Lot, others still “that weird place that just kind of springs up on the side of the Westbank Expressway in Westwego.” Whatever; seafood simply does not come any fresher than this nor from a more uniquely atmospheric place.  Located 15 minutes and a world away from New Orleans, Westwego was founded in 1870 and settled largely by fishermen, shrimpers and oystermen seeking the fastest route to bring seafood from the Gulf of Mexico to the markets of New Orleans. In the late 1960s, the market began when a fisherman parked his van in an overgrown lot and start selling to passersby directly from the back of his pickup. Today there are 15 or so vendors (the number can change by the day), selling from shacks not unlike those of a traveling circus. Locals flock here to buy fresh fish, crabs, oysters, frog legs, turtle, alligator, and gigantic shrimp the size of kittens. Check out Market We-Go in the corner of the lot for daily hot plate specials and killer poor boys.

When I was a child, most Friday evenings my father would set out for Schaefer & Rusich Seafood (1726 Lake Ave, Metairie, 504-833-3973)  in Bucktown for several pounds of shrimp that he would bring home to fry up and serve with a side of Brabant potatoes. Though I loved this meal, I also have an adventurous palate and tend to tire quickly of the same thing. I can remember groaning, “Why do we have to have that again?”

What the hell was I thinking?

 

Cook up this meal this weekend and let me know.

 

 

Southern Fried Shrimp

Makes 4-6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • oil for frying
  • 2 dozen U-15 Gulf shrimp, peeled
  • salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning, such as Tony Chachere’s
  • 1 cup well-shaken buttermilk mixed with 2 teaspoons Creole mustard

Directions: 

  1. Place the shrimp in a medium bowl and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/ 4 teaspoon pepper.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour and Creole or Cajun seasoning.
  3. Heat oil to 350°F in a large pot or deep fryer.
  4. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the shrimp and, working in batches, toss them in the seasoned flour.
  5. Slip the battered shrimp into the hot oil and cook until golden and crisp, about 5 minutes.
  6. Drain on paper towels or brown paper.
  7. Serve them straight up or load them on to slabs of French bread for poor boys.

 

Brabant Potatoes

Makes 6 Servings

Ingredients:

  • oil for frying
  • 8 Idaho potatoes
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil to 350°F in a large pot or deep fryer.
  2. While waiting for the oil to get hot, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1/2” squares.
  3. Add the potatoes and fry for 8 to 10, minutes until golden brown and tender.
  4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes from the oil to a platter lined with paper towels.
  5. Place the fried potatoes in a large mixing bowl and add the butter, garlic, parsley, salt, and pepper.
  6. Toss until the potatoes are evenly coated.
  7. Serve.

 

 

 

Categories: Recipes, Restaurants, Side Dish