Introducing.. two of New Orlean’s Finest: Executive Chef, Ben McCauley and Executive Sous Chef, Jeremy Stephens of The Troubadour! In this first installment of their chronicles from the kitchen, Ben and Jeremy give us a taste of what we can expect from our three new venues at the soon-to-open NOLA location. Read on and follow along for a behind-the-scenes take on their New Orleans kitchen!
From Ben + Jeremy: Welcome to Ben and Jeremy’s first dispatch. Being as neither one has ever done this before, let us welcome you to a page of food, debauchery, and whatever else we can think of. I guess this is the point where we explain to you what that means. Well we don’t know yet, like I said this is our first time doing this. What I can say is that we will portray how we see the world as chefs in this great city we call New Orleans. Thanks for following us on this journey we call life… Now, Ben’s first entry:
My English teachers always said to start out a paper with a quote that portrays what you want to say in the rest of your story. Well I never got much better than a C in English but hey, C’s get degrees right?! Anyways, here’s your quote Professor Wilson, “Food is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all,”-Harriet van Horne. I feel like this is indicative of all great cooking. A lot of home cooks feel like they have to follow a recipe verbatim, NOT TRUE! (Disclaimer: if you are one of our line cooks reading this instead of prepping; get off your phone, disregard the previous statement, and follow the damn recipe we gave you!) Now that that’s out of the way…Don’t be afraid to forget what your parents told you and play with your food. Let me explain. If you have an aversion or allergy or just don’t like an ingredient, try substituting something that you do like or something that won’t kill you. If you’re new to the cooking scene I suggest grabbing a copy of the book, The Flavor Bible, which provides you with flavor combinations for pretty much any ingredient you can think of. Whatever you do, make sure you have fun. (There’s another quirky quote about cooking with wine and drinking it here but I already hit my quote quota and you probably have it written on a giant ass wine glass that Brenda from accounting gave you for secret Santa last year.) Some things will work, some won’t, but that’s what’s fun about cooking, figuring it out. This brings me to the dish we chose to create today.
In this instalment we have decided to recreate a classic New Orleans dish, BBQ shrimp. New Orleans style shrimp is like none-other. Most people would think, as I did when I moved here, that BBQ shrimp is shrimp slathered with that brown sugary-ketchup and thrown on a grill. Not the case here. NOLA’s BBQ shrimp consists of sweet morsels of shrimp that have just been plucked from the waters of the Gulf, caressed by a silken sauce woven of Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, and butter, and protected by a giant piece of baguette to torpedo into that sauce. If you haven’t been lucky enough to try these bad boys then you need to get you on a plane, train, or airboat to New Orleans and head yourself to Pascal Manale’s where they originated in the 1950’s. When we thought about making this dish we decided to make it with the flavors of Vietnam. I know what you’re thinking, “VIETNAM? What does that have to do with New Orleans?” Get out your pencils, you’re going to school.
New Orleans was founded and claimed by the French from 1718-1763 and then again came under French rule for a brief time in 1802-1803. Vietnam was also occupied by the French from 1854-1953. This played a giant role in the gastronomic identity of both cuisines. Rice, shrimp, sugarcane, and pork are all essential to both cultures, from the boucheries of Louisiana to the great feasts of Vietnam that celebrate all of these ingredients. Both areas also boast some of the best patisseries outside of Paris thanks to their French roots. Not only have these two cultures had similar upbringings but they crashed into each other in 1975 after the fall of Saigon, when New Orleans became a popular place for Vietnamese refugees to relocate because of the similar climate and Catholic charities helping with refugee relocation, thus, creating viet-cajun cuisine.
Ok, history lesson is over. LET’S COOK!
Here’s what you’ll need for Vietnamese-Style BBQ Shrimp (feeds 4-6 people as an appetizer):
16-20 U-10/12 Shrimp
For the Pho Broth:
1 Ea yellow onion-quartered
1 Each Shallot-halved
4 Each Star Anise Pods
1” Fresh Ginger, peeled & sliced
¼ Each Jalapeño-sliced
2 Each Lemon grass-beaten
2 T fish sauce
1 Each Lime Juice
16 Each Shrimp shells
1.5 Qts Water
To Taste: Kosher salt
1 T Hon Dashi
For the Shrimp Rub:
1 T Fermented Black Bean Paste
2 T Crystals Hot Sauce
2 Each Garlic Cloves-sliced thin
2 t Sesame Oil
1 Each shallot-sliced
1 T sugar
½ t kosher salt
1T Fish Sauce
1 T Worcestershire Sauce
½ cup firm tofu
3 T butter-unsalted, melted
*All of these ingredients are available at your local whole foods and Asian markets or online if needed.
First you’re going to want to get some nicely sized fresh shrimp with the shells on. If you are unable to get fresh, frozen will do just make sure that the shells are on to make your broth. Peel and devein your shrimp reserving the shells. To set up your broth, set your oven on broil. Place the onions and shallots on a sheet pan and broil until nicely charred. In a sauce pan, over medium high heat, add a tablespoon of neutral oil and toast your shrimp shells for about 2-3 minutes. Add onions, anise, jalapeño, ginger, lemongrass, fish sauce and coriander seeds and let toast for 1 minute stirring often. Add water and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 45 minutes and add hon dashi, strain, and season with salt to taste.
For the rub, place black bean paste, hot sauce, garlic, sesame oil, shallot, sugar, salt fish sauce, and Worcestershire sauce, in a sauce pot over medium heat and let flavors combine for about 15 minutes, stirring often. Place tofu and butter in a blender and blend until smooth. Slowly add the sauce to the blender and pulse until smooth.
To Plate, place shrimp on a sheet pan and season with salt. Spoon rub over top and place in oven on broil until sauce is browned and shrimp are just cooked through. Ladle your broth into a bowl, arrange your shrimp as wanted and garnish with sliced jalapeño, lime, and cilantro. You can go farther and place a piece of French bread to sop up any broth or goodies left in the bottom of the bowl.