Mardi Gras food is notoriously rich and calorie-laden. On top of that, many of the dishes require lots of prep and long simmering times. That’s a shame, since Fat Tuesday falls in the middle of the week, and most of us have to work during the day. By the time you go to the grocery store to pick up the ingredients and get home, there’s not much time left for cooking. Here is an idea for a Mardi Gras meal that can be prepared in less than an hour: Barbecue shrimp is a classic New Orleans dish; here I pair it with a salad inspired by one of my childhood favorites, Waldorf salad. Instead of mixing the salad ingredients in a tightly-composed glob, held together by mayonnaise (or sour cream), just keep it loose and toss everything with a light balsamic vinaigrette. The richness and spicy heat of the shrimp are offset by the cool temperature of the salad and the sweet flavors of the fruit and balsamic vinaigrette. Laissez les bons temps rouler!!
New Orleans-Style Barbecue Shrimp
2 pounds peeled and deveined extra large or jumbo shrimp
3 tbsp butter
3 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
4 tsp of minced garlic
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp of your favorite red hot sauce
Juice of a lemon or lime
Salt and pepper
3 tbsp chopped parsley
Cook garlic in butter and oil on medium heat in an oven-proof pan for about 5 minutes, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent garlic from burning.
Add remaining ingredients except shrimp and parsley and cook about 3 minutes while stirring to combine the ingredients. Remove pan from the heat and toss shrimp to coat completely. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes or more for flavors to penetrate. (During this time you can assemble the salad and make the salad dressing as directed in recipe below)
Just before you are ready to serve the shrimp, bake them uncovered in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes. Toss with parsley before serving and adjust seasoning with additional salt, pepper and/or citrus juice as desired.
Serve over rice, prepared according to package directions or with warm French bread for sopping up the extra sauce. Garnish with citrus wedges.
Serves 2 or 4 (depending on serving size)
Deconstructed Waldorf Salad
4 cups Romaine, Red Leaf or Boston lettuce rinsed, dried and torn into bite size pieces
2 cups red and green seedless grapes, sliced in half
1 cup of pecan pieces
2 Granny Smith, Fuji or other crisp apples, peeled, cored and chopped into bite size pieces
High quality balsamic vinegar
Extra virgin olive oil
Pour 3 cups of oil and 1 cup of high quality balsamic vinegar into a glass bowl or Pyrex measuring cup and whisk with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper and a mashed clove of garlic until ingredients are emulsified. Alternatively, you can shake the ingredients in a covered spillproof plastic or glass container like Tupperware or a Mason jar. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Toss the torn lettuce, grape halves, pecans and apple chunks with about 1/3 cup of salad dressing and serve.
Makes 4 small salads or 2 large salads
Wine pairing tip: The rich spicy flavors of the shrimp and the sweetness and acidity of the salad, make this a challenging dish to pair with wine. For white wine, crisp cool-climate dry Riesling with a hint of fruit is always a good idea with Creole/Cajun food. If you’re not a fan of Riesling, consider a Chenin Blanc, Gruner Veltliner or Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend. A fruity sparkling rosé would also be a cooling counterpoint. For red wine, pick a light-to-medium bodied wine, like a fruity Pinot Noir, Grenache or red Zinfandel (just be sure to pick one that’s on the lighter side).