Order shrimp remoulade in a New Orleans restaurant and, depending on where you are sitting, your shrimp may be served with a creamy pinkish sauce studded with spices, a deep red one heavy on horseradish and Creole mustard, a delicate seasoned mayonnaise with lots of fresh herbs, or even a white, creamy sauce with a touch of garlic.
People have their favorites, of course, and one of mine is at Brigtsen’s Restaurant, opened in 1986 by chef Frank Brigtsen and his wife Marna in the Carrollton area of the city, just a short stroll from the Mississippi River levee.
“This is a great example in Creole cuisine where we’ve taken a classic French recipe and made it nothing like the French and adapted to our taste,” Frank Brigtsen said. “French remoulade is made with mayonnaise, gherkins, chervil and capers, but here in New Orleans, of course, it’s totally different.”
An example of that French version from “The How and Ways of French Cooking” by Alma Lach, published in 1970, features one cup of mayonnaise mixed with two sieved egg yolks, 1 tablespoon minced pickles, 1/4 teaspoon dried mustard, 1 teaspoon minced parsley, 1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste and 1/2 teaspoon each capers, dried chervil and dried tarragon.
No disrespect to mayonnaise-based versions, but Brigtsen’s leans more toward astringency than creaminess, which is what makes me crave it as the weather warms.
“It has evolved over the years,” he said of his pungent sauce. “My remoulade traces directly back to the remoulade we served at Commander’s Palace in the 1970s: Lemony, sharp and aggressive. Similar to one at K-Paul’s,” he said, referring to K-Paul’s Louisiana’s Kitchen, which was opened in 1979 by Brigtsen’s mentor, the influential chef Paul Prudhomme. It closed in the summer of 2020.
“When I opened Brigtsen, I used that flavor memory as my starting point.”
Then, he did what chefs and home cooks alike do. He made it his own.
“It’s the perfect way to start a meal in New Orleans, particularly in the warmer months, because it is so bracing, aggressive and assertively flavored,” said Brigtsen, who is ready for a busy summer with locals enthusiastically returning to indoor dining.
“It wakes up the palate,” he said.
The sauce is thick from finely chopped celery, scallions and parsley. It gets its kick from raw garlic, Creole mustard, yellow mustard, lemon juice, horseradish and vinegar. Ketchup and paprika give it a reddish tint and provide a hint of sweetness. Brigtsen long ago removed the egg from his version of remoulade.
“Now, as you see, there’s only a scant amount of oil in there,” he said of the quarter cup. “It’s just there to give the sauce the right consistency and help the vegetables puree.”
The way he serves the shrimp remoulade is a meal unto itself, so that’s how I usually enjoy it — as an entree.
The plate includes a chiffonade of iceberg lettuce, topped with well-seasoned shrimp and a generous portion of that remoulade. Sharing the plate are deviled eggs and guacamole, which provide a creamy counterbalance to that assertive sauce, Brigtsen said. “Shrimp remoulade is one of the dishes that requires iceberg lettuce,” Brigtsen said. “You have to have a chiffonade of iceberg lettuce. It’s a vital part of it to me. We buy iceberg lettuce strictly for that.”
At his restaurant, Brigtsen is a stickler that each component of his dishes be made according to his developed recipes, which he describes as his “life’s work.” He prides himself on the consistency that has earned him a loyal following.
When I explained that I simplified the dish for a weeknight meal, however, he was all in favor of home cooks making it their own.
Rather than well-seasoned shrimp, I poach them in salted water with a little lemon.
“The complexity of the remoulade will take care of that,” he said of the milder shrimp.
I toss the fresh vegetables and herbs in a food processor to make short work of all that chopping and then simply add the other ingredients to the processor, pulsing until the sauce is well combined. Rather than deviled eggs, I quarter hard-cooked eggs, and in place of the guacamole, I use slices of fresh avocado. (I hope he’ll forgive me, but I like it with the crunchier interior leaves of Bibb in place of iceberg.)
Also, I scaled down his recipe for a portion more suited to home cooks and found that this version needed a touch less yellow mustard. (It is a bit spicy, so if you prefer a milder version, consider adding the horseradish and hot sauce to taste.)
While Brigtsen is cool with home cooks tweaking, he did offer this advice: “One of the challenges of only tasting one component of a dish is that you’re not sitting down and tasting the whole dish together.”
For example, he noted that a cook in his kitchen began cutting back on the lime in his guacamole until he explained: “We’re not serving guacamole. We’re serving shrimp remoulade with guacamole, and so the lime is perfect.”
So, if you taste the sauce and it seems too bright, too strong, try it with a bit of boiled egg, avocado and shrimp and see how the flavors come together.
Also, if you have leftover sauce, here’s another note from Brigtsen: “What’s interesting about the sauce is how it changes from day to day. On Day One, it has a rawer taste. You can still pick out all of the different vegetables and flavors in there, the celery, the green onion. On Day Two, those flavors have married and melded and become a little more cohesive.”
I like it on Day One. See what you think.
Shrimp Remoulade Salad
Storage Notes: The remoulade can be refrigerated for up to 5 days.
For the shrimp and eggs
- 1 tablespoon fine sea salt or table salt
- 1 lemon
- 24 large shrimp (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined
- 4 large eggs
For the remoulade sauce
- 1 1/2 cups (about 7 ounces or 4 large ribs) chopped celery
- 1/2 cup (2 1/2 ounces or 3 large) chopped scallions
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 1/4 cup Creole or stone-ground mustard
- 2 tablespoons ketchup
- 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 tablespoons prepared horseradish
- 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce, such as Tabasco
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
For the salad
- Torn leaves from 1 head butter, Bibb or iceberg lettuce (about 10 ounces)
- 1 avocado, halved, pitted and sliced (optional)
- 4 radishes, thinly sliced (optional)
Make the shrimp: Bring a medium pot of generously salted water to a boil. Quarter the lemon, squeeze it into the water and then drop it into the pot. Add the shrimp, reduce the heat to medium-low and poach until the shrimp turns pink and curled, 2 to 3 minutes. Slice one shrimp open to see that it is opaque throughout, then drain and spread on a platter to cool. (The cooking time will vary with the size of the shrimp.)
To hard-cook the eggs, add about 1 inch of water to a medium pot and bring to a boil. Place the eggs in a steamer insert that fits in the pot and gently lower the steamer into the pot. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and steam the eggs for 13 minutes. Meanwhile, prepare an ice bath in a medium bowl. When the eggs are finished steaming, transfer them to the ice bath and let sit for 5 minutes, then peel.
Make the remoulade: While the eggs are steaming, in a food processor, combine the celery, scallions, parsley and garlic, and pulse until finely chopped. Add the Creole or stone-ground mustard, ketchup, lemon juice, horseradish, red wine vinegar, sweet paprika, yellow mustard, salt and hot sauce and pulse until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl, if necessary. With the machine running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated. Refrigerate until ready to use.
Divide the lettuce among four plates. Quarter each egg and place them around the edges of the lettuce. Top the lettuce with six shrimp per plate and sprinkle with sliced avocado and radishes, if using. Spoon equal portions of the remoulade sauce on top of each portion, or serve the sauce on the side.
Per serving (6 shrimp, 3/4 cup lettuce, 1/2 cup sauce, 1 egg, 1/4 avocado, 1 radish)
Calories: 300; Total Fat: 19 g; Saturated Fat: 3 g; Cholesterol: 239 mg; Sodium: 1180 mg; Carbohydrates: 14 g; Dietary Fiber: 3 g; Sugar: 5 g; Protein: 14 g
This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.
Remoulade sauce recipe adapted from chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen’s Restaurant in New Orleans.
Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to email@example.com.
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