Buttered Up BBQ Shrimp Po'Boys — Down-Home Comfort

Virginia Willis' NOLA BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy for FoodNetwork.com

NOLA BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy

Virginia Willis' NOLA BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy for FoodNetwork.com

Photo by: Virginia Willis ©2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Right Reserved

Virginia Willis, 2014, Television Food Network, G.P. All Right Reserved

Virginia Willis' NOLA BBQ Shrimp Po-Boy for FoodNetwork.com

Po’ boys are iconic in coastal cuisine, especially in southern Louisiana and along the Gulf of Mexico. They’re a New Orleans classic said to have originated in the early twentieth century, the name originating from the hungry plea, “Give a po’ boy a sandwich?” The original po’ boys were hollowed-out loaves of French bread layered with meat, brown gravy and fried potatoes. You can still get roast beef po’ boys with “debris” gravy, a flavorful jus with bits and pieces of roast beef in it.

However, with the Gulf at New Orleans’ front door, seafood has a mighty hold on Creole and Cajun cuisine.

Since time began, folks with less have harvested from the river and seas, for free. We may think of seafood as expensive now, but if you live on a body of water, dinner just might be as close as a hook or a net and a little bit of patience.

Seafood po’ boys include fried oysters, fried catfish, fried soft-shell crab and, yes, fried shrimp. Don’t even think about cranking up the deep fryer or even heating up the grill, because these BBQ Shrimp Po’ Boys are poached in a highly seasoned garlic and lemon-butter sauce.

“Sauce” is a term I will use loosely; it’s not really a sauce. It’s really flavored butter — and lots of it. There’s not much more soul-satisfying and messy than a BBQ shrimp po’ boy. This is a get-on-in-there-and-grab-it kind of sandwich. You can judge how buttery and juicy it is by the number of napkins it takes to keep your face, hands and lap clean.

Overindulgence, richness and a deep appreciation of good food and drink are what define New Orleans. New Orleans is in mind and spirit quite separate from the rest of Louisiana. It’s deep, deep South, heartily flavored with a heavy dose of the Caribbean.

When buying shrimp, look for firm shrimp with a mild, almost sweet scent. If there is any scent of ammonia, it is a sign that the shrimp is no longer fresh. I buy only wild American shrimp and hope you will consider doing the same. Look to Seafood Watch to judge what are the most-sustainable shrimp to buy.

The biggest mistake with cooking shrimp is cooking them far too long. Most people overcook them, and the shrimp bounces in your mouth like a beach ball. Cook them just until they form a loose “C,” fill a slab of bread and drizzle over the savory, spicy, buttery juices — and grab a handful of napkins, of course. Get ready for some indulgent down-home comfort, N’awlins-style!

Get the Recipe: BBQ Shrimp Po’Boys

Bon Appétit, Y’all!

Georgia-born, French-trained Chef Virginia Willis has cooked lapin Normandie with Julia Child in France, prepared lunch for President Clinton and harvested capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. A Southern food authority, she is the author of Bon Appétit, Y’all and Basic to Brilliant, Y’all, among others. Follow her continuing exploits at VirginiaWillis.com.

Next Up

Cheesy Summer Squash Casserole — Down-Home Comfort

This recipe is just cheesy and rich enough to let the delicate flavor of the squash shine through.

How to Cook Korean Barbecue at Home

With some simple setup, you’ll be salivating over your spread in no time.

The Asian American Food-Scented Candles That Conjure Up Home

With scents like Steamed White Rice, White Rabbit Candy, Ube and Pandan, candlemakers are pouring candles that make them feel closer to their cultures.

Shrimp and Grits — Down-Home Comfort

Down-home comfort has caught fire in the last 10 years or so with the classic low-country dish Shrimp and Grits. It’s being served in white tablecloth restaurants from Savannah to Seattle.

Summer Succotash — Down-Home Comfort

Succotash is essentially an all-American stir-fry.

Tailgate Chili — Down-Home Comfort

I think the perfect tailgate food just might be chili. The one thing that can be agreed upon is that anyone who loves making chili thinks that theirs is the greatest. Well, that and that their team is the best.

Blueberry Delight — Down-Home Comfort

Blueberries are the Disney version of summer fruit, round and gentle like a bouncing sing-along ball. They bring to mind fingers stained purple-blue, fruity tarts, pies and cobblers, and warm, fresh-from-the-oven muffins.

Scalloped Potatoes — Down-Home Comfort

Scalloped Potatoes. Potatoes au Gratin. Potato Cheese Casserole. Potato Cheese Bake. Many names describe this mouthwatering, golden-brown, bubbly dish of down-home comfort.

Country-Fried Steak — Down-Home Comfort

Country-fried steak is called chicken-fried steak in Texas and pan-fried steak, cube steak or smothered steak in other regions; but frankly, once you taste this dish of down-home comfort, you're not going to care what it's called.

Baked Corn Pudding — Down-Home Comfort

Nowadays, many modern recipes call for a can of creamed corn and a box of cornbread mix, but you know my classic recipes in this column are all about fresh and wholesome down-home comfort!