Grilled Shrimp with Garlic (Shrimp Mosca)

The Story Goes:

In 1946 when Chef Provino Mosca decided that Chicago was way to “hot” for him – his boss, Al Capone, had been sent to the Big House, but the mafia still ruled the world – he packed up his family and moved to – New Orleans! And therein lies a tale.

He and “Mama” opened a small roadhouse restaurant on the west bank of the Mississippi, where he ruled the kitchen – and Mama ruled everything else. Mafia or not.

Mosca’s Restaurant has been a mainstay of the New Orleans culinary scene since that year, and even as remote as it is, the oyster shell parking lot is packed every night they are open with visitors from across the city, and across the country. They take no reservations, and everyone waits outside for a table – in New Orleans, in the summer, in air you can wear. Word is that members of the mafia still dine at Mosca’s, but they stand in the parking lot waiting for a table like everyone else.

Hurricane Katrina wrecked the little roadhouse, but the second and third generations of Mosca offspring have brought it back – pretty much the way it was, only better.

This dish is also called “Barbecue Shrimp,” and you will find it as such on the menus at many of the city’s finest restaurants. Most New Orleaneans call it “Shrimp Mosca” because it’s not usually cooked outside on a barbecue grill, and it doesn’t contain what anyone would ever think of as barbecue sauce. It’s super easy, and it’s fast – faster than you might think: the most common mistake is to overcook the shrimp.

This dish is ALWAYS accompanied by fresh, hot, crusty French bread for sopping up the sauce…and a bib.

Shrimp Mosca

1/2 lb butter

1 cup GOOD olive oil (this is no place to be frugal)

1/2 cup good white wine (pinot grigio)

1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce

about 5 Tbs of freshly ground black pepper

4 lemons, ends removed, sliced thinly

1 1/2 tsp Crystal Hot Sauce

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried thyme

1 small branch fresh rosemary leaves (not the stem) adjust to taste

10 cloves of garlic, pressed

4 tsp kosher salt

8 lbs. raw, unpeeled jumbo shrimp (at least 16/20)

De-head the shrimp and rinse them, if necessary. Then use two skewers – one inserted near the tail, the other inserted about an inch up – and get all the shrimp onto skewers. We can usually get about 6 large shrimp, with a little room between them, onto each skewer bundle. Note: a single skewer makes a shrimp whirlygig – it takes two to keep them from spinning.

Build a medium fire in the usual cool side/hot side configuration. When the fire is hot, put in the grate and heat it up (about 5 mins.) Set a large, disposable metal pan on the cool side of the grill and add all of the ingredients except the shrimp skewers. Adjust the pan over the hot coals so that the butter melts and all the ingredients come to a simmer (about 5-7 mins). Move the pan to the cool side of the grill, and put the shrimp skewers directly on the grate over the coals.

Where they hit, they sit – don’t move them for three minutes. Flip the skewers and let them be for two-three minutes (the shells may turn black). Then use your tongs to remove the shrimp from the skewers and drop them directly into the pan on the cool side, and continue grilling the rest of the skewers until all of the shrimp are in the sauce.

We’re careful during this operation to put the shrimp into the pan starting nearest the coals, and working them over to the outside as additional batches are added. When they first hit the sauce, they’re on the hot side, and then move each time to a cooler place in the pan. This is to prevent the first batch from becoming overcooked before the last batch is off the grate.

The shrimp need to spend 10 minutes (total) in the sauce, so the first ones into the pan will be the first ones out. Serve in bowls, making sure each bowl gets a couple of the lemon slices and some rosemary with a big spoonful of sauce. Top with several slices of crusty French bread to sop up the sauce.

This recipe officially serves about 20 people as a tapas-type appetizer (3 or 4 shrimp each) or 10 -12 people as an entré. At our house, it serves 4. Don’t forget the bibs.

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A single skewer makes a shrimp a whirlygig - it takes two to keep them from spinning...
Remember to adjust your timing to the size of the shrimp - these big boys cooked about 6 mins, then went into the pan. Smaller shrimp may cook for three mins, total, or less, before hitting the sauce....
Grilled Shrimp with Garlic (Shrimp Mosca)

This classic New Orleans dish is always a hit at our summertime parties - our recipe will serve up to 20 as a tapas-type appetizer, or 10 as a main course. At our house, it serves 4. Don't forget the bibs!

How to Buy Shrimp

Every fishmonger worth his salt sells shrimp by their count number - that is, roughly the number of shrimp per pound - head on. That means that the larger the number (50/60) the more shrimp in one pound, thus, the smaller they are. We consider anything in the range of 25/30 and smaller to be gumbo shrimp or bait. When you get up to about 15/20, you're talking nice sized shrimp. Notations with a "U" before the number (U/12) means that there are "under" twelve, or fewer than 12 shrimp in a pound. "U" shrimp in the range of 10 or so are best left for high-heat, hands-on technique and fancy dishes. They are difficult to cook well and thouroughly, and are best when treated as small lobsters.

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