Wanna talk about a New Orleans staple? Here we go...
Back when I was 26 I had just finished culinary school. I did a 9-month internship on the beautiful Whidbey Island in Washington State working for an incredible Chef who taught me many hard lessons, then off I went to the dirty south.
I then got a wild opportunity to work at Commander's Palace down south in New Orleans. For those of you who don't know Commanders, It's one of the oldest standing restaurants in America. It has countless awards and is such a classic for Southern hospitality in the south.
Within 7 years I moved from Canada to Seattle, and then to New Orleans all on this journey of figuring out what would become of my life. I studied Biology at the University of Washington, and for as long as I (and my family) could remember, I wanted to be a dentist. I took the DAT exam, applied for dental schools then had the biggest meltdown of my life thinking “Am I really about to devote my life to digging in people's mouths?!” The thought made me cringe. So after many arguments with my parents and much stubbornness on my end, I enrolled in Culinary school thinking it would “Fix all my problems”.
My dad would always ask me “So what's the plan?” and well, the reality was I didn't have one. I had absolutely NO clue what I was doing, where I was going, what the goal was, or how I was gonna get there. All I knew was that Dentistry didn't have my heart and I'm the kind of human that needs to truly feel fulfilled. What I banked on was my work ethic and drive. I just trusted myself that soon things would fall in line and it would be more clear as I continued along.
Still following? Great. So now imagine we’re in the Dirty South. A dirty, smelly, filthy place that is so magically charming in its own right. Some of the best restaurants on this planet are in New Orleans, and not the type that has Michelin Stars or awards. But because in their own right, they have so much SOUL and heart and passion and you can feel it in the cocktails, in the menu, and in the service. It's a city that exudes energy. You can feel it walking around.
What I noticed at almost every restaurant was “BBQ Prawns”. Such a simple dish of grilled or sauteed prawns swimming in a delicious velvety cajun cream sauce. Every restaurant made their own version, so after years of eating theirs, I made my own.
For any of my clients reading this, you’ve probably tried this dish. The sauce itself is what we’ll focus on because it's literally so good you could drink it with a straw. You can use it as a pasta sauce, as a bath for prawns, for chicken, or literally just to dunk crusty bread in. So tag this page and keep it forever in your heart <3
Cajun Spice Blend:
1 cup sugar
1 tbl cayenne
½ cup Spanish paprika
⅓ cup diamond kosher salt (if you're using a different brand, the amount may vary)
⅓ cup garlic powder
⅓ cup chili powder
1 tbl dried rosemary
1 tbl dried thyme
1 tbl Onion powder
Mix it up and keep it in a dry place. You can pull from this spice mix to make your favorite version. For the cajun cream, I pour a quart of heavy cream into a heavy sauce pot and bring it to a simmer. Because I always eyeball the measurement, it’s hard for me to say exactly how much I'd use, but I'd guess ¼ cup at least of cajun spice. Whisk to combine and keep an eye on it. The sauce needs to boil and reduce to thicken and get the stickiness you’re looking for. It should be FULL of flavor, so as it's boiling, taste it. If it needs more spice, add some more in but keep in mind as it reduces the flavor will come through more.
I can't really help much more as I truly believe cooking is by taste, so learn how!
If you're wanting to make the BBQ Prawns:
-Clean and pat dry ½ lbs of 16-20 shrimp
-Heat 1 tbl neutral oil in a pan and sear both sides of the shrimp. Work in batches to not crown the pan and give each shrimp some space to sear nicely. 1 minute on each side is plenty.
-Remove shrimp from pan (even if they're not fully cooked, it's okay)
-Add another 1 tbl oil to the same pan and add 2-3 tbl cajun spice mix. Stir for 30 seconds so the spices can bloom and toast a little in the oil.
-Add 2 cups of heavy cream. Bring to a boil
-Add shrimp back in and finish cooking in hot cream.
Serve with chopped scallions and lots of crusty toasted bread for dipping. Trust.
You’re welcome, and I love you too <3