Weekend special:  Chicago’s own Shrimp de Jonghe

Our store has jumbo 16-20 count wild-caught, raw Gulf shrimp on sale this weekend (editor’s note:  by now, some of you have figured out where I work; after all, how many high-end grocery chains are there in greater Chicago?  But I digress).  That makes it the perfect time to make Shrimp de Jonghe.  it’s the oldest known dish associated with the city of Chicago, and unlike Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian beef or deep-dish pizza, Shrimp de Jonghe is a formal dish that originated in a white-tablecloth restaurant — one that was one of the most fashionable ones of its time — right after the 1893 Columbian Exposition.

If you want to know more about the fascinating history of Shrimp de Jonghe, please visit this page on my excellent Route 66 blog, CuriousTraveler66.com.  But if you want the recipe, you’ve come to the right place.

Marie’s Chicago-style Shrimp de Jonghe                serves 4

1-½ lbs. of shelled raw Gulf shrimp, 16-20 count size*
1½ qts. cold water
1 thick slice of fresh lemon
½ small onion, sliced
1 celery stalk, trimmed and cut in half lengthwise, then into large chunks
3 black peppercorns, crushed in a mortar
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. + ¼ tsp. sea salt
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus 1 tbsp. extra for buttering the baking pans
1 oz. good dry sherry – fino, manzanilla or amontillado (not cream sherry: that’s too sweet)
½ tsp. ground savory
2 cloves garlic, minced
⅛ tsp. cayenne pepper, to taste
1½ cups French-style breadcrumbs
3 tbsp. minced flat Italian parsley
1 small shallot, minced
1 tsp. sweet Hungarian paprika

* The larger the shrimp, the better and more appetizing this dish looks and cooks; if you can’t get 16-20 count shrimp, get at least 21-30 count – anything smaller won’t cook properly: the shrimp will be done long before the bread crumbs are toasted.

  1. Devein the shrimp but leave on the shells.  While you’re doing that, put the water, lemon, onion, celery, peppercorns, bay leaf, and 1 teaspoon of the sea salt into a 3-quart saucepan; twist the lemon in the water to release some of the juice and lemon oil in the peel, then bring the water to a boil.  Add shrimp; cover and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly, just until the shrimp meat begins to turn an opaque white and the shells turn a deeper pink but before the shrimp begin to curl – don’t overcook them!  Remove from heat and drain the shrimp immediately, running them under cool tap water for 30 seconds.  Drain again.
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Allow the shrimp to cool just until you can handle them with your clean bare fingers, and put the peeled shrimp into a large bowl.  Add half of the melted butter to the shrimp and combine with the sherry, ground savory, half the minced garlic, and a pinch of cayenne; toss to mix.
  1. Mix the remaining melted butter and bread crumbs in small bowl.  Stir in the minced parsley, shallot, remaining garlic, paprika, ¼ tsp. sea salt, and cayenne.  Mix well, then taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary (if you want a tiny bit more cayenne, now’s the time to add it – but remember, this isn’t a hot and spicy dish: you don’t want the seasoning to overshadow the flavor of the shrimp.  You just need enough to enhance it).
  2. Spoon half of the buttered shrimp mixture into individual 6 to 7 ounce buttered au gratin dishes or ramekins (if you don’t have individual porcelain, glass or Corning Ware baking dishes – which are highly recommended – you may also use a buttered porcelain quiche dish or a 1½-quart baking dish).  Spread half of the breadcrumbs across the shrimp; top with remaining shrimp mixture.  Add the remaining breadcrumbs. Dribble any seasoned butter remaining in the bowl on top of the crumbs.   Bake until breadcrumbs are a light golden brown, about 7 to 10 minutes.   Serve immediately.

Wine suggestion:  A dry Alsatian Riesling would be perfect.  The other choice is a good fino or semi-dry amontillado sherry, preferably Lustau, instead (you can drink it the way modern Spaniards do, on the rocks with a wedge of lime).  Enjoy!




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