Tom and I were in New Orleans earlier this month, visiting our friend Gene. Since we three had two birthdays and a wedding anniversary to celebrate, we decided to do so with a dinner at Galatoire’s. This grand old restaurant has given us many pleasurable meals over the years. In what has become a tradition, I almost always order shrimp remoulade as my first course. Here’s the dish I had there this trip:
Remoulade is a fascinating culinary catch-all. It’s really at least a dozen different sauces. There’s a classic French version, which starts with a freshly made mayonnaise and adds anchovy paste and finely chopped pickles, capers, parsley, chervil, and tarragon. Then there are variants on that, some simpler, some more elaborate, all starting from a mayonnaise base.
Online sources say the name comes from a French dialect word meaning horseradish, but I kind of doubt that, since none of the many French versions of the sauce that I’ve seen calls for any horseradish. My theory is that it derives from the past participle of the verb remouler, which means “to mill or grind together” – vide all those minced vegetables.
However that may be, other cooking cultures have taken sauce remoulade to heart and done their own thing with it – none more ebulliently than New Orleans. Here, thanks to Creole influence, it becomes a much spicier sauce. Usually red, not white like the French version, and with any number of additions: multiple mustards, multiple hot sauces, multiple vinegars, garlic, scallions, hard-boiled eggs . . . Let a “creative” New Orleans chef concoct a house remoulade and it can be anything.
Galatoire’s has the best version of New Orleans remoulade I’ve ever tasted. I wouldn’t exactly call it restrained, but its many ingredients blend together happily to make a harmonious dressing, especially for shellfish. And it loves wine. Tom has a post on his blog about the wine that accompanied my shrimp and the other first courses of that dinner.
Back home, I decided it was time for me to try making that shrimp remoulade dish. On my previous visit to the restaurant I’d been given a little card with the recipe, which had been sitting neglected in my big recipe binder ever since.
Please note: Shrimp remoulade recipes said to be Galatoire’s appear in many places on the Internet, but some versions are fairly different in either ingredients or proportions. My card’s recipe is the same as the one posted on the restaurant’s own website. We’re all for authenticity here.
The challenge of this otherwise-easy recipe was scaling it down. It calls for four dozen jumbo shrimp – 15 count, which means 15 to the pound when the heads and shells are still on. I had 10 headless extra-large shrimp, which weighed half a pound. My feeble attempts to reconcile those numbers, weights, and the effect of heads vs. no heads produced nothing remotely plausible, so I gave up and decided to use ⅛ of each of the 11 ingredients for the sauce. As I’ve said here before, math is not my strong point!
The recipe also says to make the sauce in a food processor. The minute quantities I was using wouldn’t even have registered in a full-size processor bowl, but they were just right for my mini-processor, so the sauce was a breeze to make.
The only change I made was in the serving arrangement: The recipe calls for a bed of iceberg lettuce, and we don’t do iceberg in our house. I used crisp Romaine.
The dish was delicious – very like the one I’d recently had at the restaurant, except that my sauce was a little spicier. That may be because I used Tom’s doctored ketchup, which is already spicy in itself. Also, my hot paprika was Hungarian, not Spanish, but I don’t know if that would have made any difference. The remoulade sauce was as good on the lettuce as on the shrimp. It probably would have even made iceberg taste good!
In kindness to any readers who might like to try making a small amount of Galatoire’s remoulade, here are the quantities of ingredients I used for my batch. They made about ¾ cup of sauce.
1½ Tb celery
1½ Tb scallion
1 Tb parsley
2 Tb onion
1 Tb ketchup
1 Tb tomato puree
1 Tb grainy mustard
1½ tsp wine vinegar
¾ tsp hot paprika
⅛ tsp Worcestershire
1 Tb oil