Mom Duke’s Shrimp
From My America: Recipes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi with Joshua David Stein. Copyright © 2022 by Kwame Onwuachi. Excerpted by permission of Alfred A. Knopf, a division of Penguin Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Feature photo credit: Clay Williams
Yield: 2 to 3 servings
This is an homage to my own Mom Duke’s, Jewel Robinson, and her supercharged version of the peel-and-eat shrimp I grew up with. I was inspired by that dish’s addictive flavor and silky texture as well as New Orleans’s famous barbecue shrimp. The Worcestershire sauce, beer, white wine, and butter—so. much. butter.—yield a highly aromatic glistening sauce, hovering right on the sea side of a traditional barbecue. I like to serve it with rice and torn French bread, though anything that sops up all that good sauce works.
- 10 large (16– 20 size) raw Gulf shrimp, shell-on, head-on if possible
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1 tablespoon House Spice (below), plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil, plus more as needed
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 yellow onion, finely diced
- 1/2 stalk celery, minced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, finely diced 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 3 fresh thyme springs
- 3 tablespoons Abita Amber Lager or other amber lager
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
- 3 tablespoons dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
- 3 tablespoons Shrimp Stock (below)
- 5 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 8 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cubed
- Freshly squeezed lemon juice, to serve
- 2 teaspoons finely chopped chives
Prep the shrimp: Peel and devein the shrimp, keeping the tails and heads on. (If you like, stash the shells in a ziplock bag and keep them in the freezer until you have enough to make shrimp stock.) Season the shrimp generously to taste with salt and house spice.
Sear the shrimp: Heat a large pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 tablespoons of oil and, when it shimmers, add the shrimp in a single layer. Sear the shrimp on both sides, 1 to 2 minutes total—they should be about halfway cooked. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Build the sauce: In the same pan, sauté the garlic, onions, celery, and bell peppers until translucent, about 5 minutes, adding more oil if needed. Add house spice, oregano, bay leaf, thyme, beer, orange juice, wine, stock, and Worcestershire sauce. Increase the heat to a brisk simmer and cook, stirring often. When about 80 percent reduced, after 2 to 3 minutes, return the shrimp to the pan and toss to coat. Continue to cook until the liquid is evaporated, then remove the thyme and bay leaf.
Remove the shrimp from the heat and add the cold butter a cube at a time, stirring constantly, until emulsified. Season to taste with salt and lemon juice, sprinkle with chives, and serve immediately, with additional house spice and rice and/or torn French bread.
Note: Mom Duke’s Shrimp is best served immediately.
Nearly every kitchen I’ve been to in that stretch of Louisiana and Texas known as the Creole Coast has, somewhere in it, a jar of house spice. This mixture, made with varying degrees of heat, goes on everything: into the flour with which you fry chicken, onto a steak before it’s seared, into the eggs in the morning. Growing up in the Bronx, we had it too, made from scratch by my mom, whose roots are in the marshes of southern Louisiana. These flavors are the underpainting for my palette. House spice is as elemental in the kitchens I love as salt. This version is based on my mom’s but kicked up a notch with Worcestershire powder for a touch of acidity and umami.
Origin: American South
Yield: 3 cups
- 1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons + 1 1/2 teaspoons granulated onion
- 1/2 cup Worcestershire powder
- 5 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cayenne
- 5 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and whisk well to combine.
House spice keeps in an airtight container in a cool dark place for up to 4 months.
When I’m dead and gone and they cut open my body, they’ll find shrimp stock running through my veins. Though less widely used than chicken or veal stock in traditional French cuisine— where shrimp didn’t hold pride of place as they do on the shorelines of Louisiana— shrimp stock is at the base of so much of the food I love, from Shrimp Étouffée (page 133) to Seafood Gumbo (page 138) and Jambalaya (page 59). I grew up saving the shells of the shrimp we ate in order to make this stock, ziplock bags of which lined our freezer shelves, ready and willing to add its deep crustacean flavor when called upon to do so.
Origin: American South
Yield: 3 quarts
- 1/4 cup grapeseed oil, divided
- 1 pound shrimp shells (and heads, if available)
- 1 1/2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 stalks celery, roughly chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, halved
- 3 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 fresh parsley stems
- 4 whole black peppercorns
In a large pot over high heat, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. When it shimmers, add the shrimp shells and sauté until deeply browned and fragrant, 7 to 10 minutes.
Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and the tomato paste and cook, stirring often, until caramelized, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the onions, carrots, and celery and sauté until the onions are trans-lucent and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients along with 4 quarts of water, and bring to a boil, scraping the bottom of the pot to loosen any browned bits, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.
Strain through a fine-mesh sieve before using.