~ Breadcrumbs, Butter, Garlic + Shrimp 'de Jonghe' ~
Chances are, if you have never been to Chicago, you have never heard of shrimp de Jonghe -- it's virtually unknown outside of the windy city. Dating back to the late 19th Century, it is said to be one of the city's oldest "gastonomic glories" -- in Chicago it's an immortal institution. Close your eyes and conjure up an image of a plate of succulent, jumbo shrimp bathed in a rich herb-butter, sherry and garlic sauce, topped with the most divine, golden, homemade French breadcrumbs and doused with few generous squirts of fresh lemon juice. Tres magnifique!
Invented by Belgian-born immigrant brothers, Henri, Pierre and Charles DeJonghe, who came to Chicago a year prior the World's Fair Columbian Exposition in 1893 in order to open a cafe at the expo, with this shrimp dish, success came unexpectedly and quickly. Before long, they could afford to buy an entire building and opened De Jonghe's Hotel and Restaurant. It operated successfully until a Prohibition raid, which seized 30 cases of liquor, shut them down in 1923. Even though the judge said they could reopen after a year, they didn't, and, the secret shrimp recipe (which coincidentally contained booze) was never shared.
That said, by that time, the recipe had become so famous across the city that hundreds of Chicago restaurants began putting Shrimp de Jonghe on their menus, where it remains today.
The recipe that I used as the base inspiration for my version was published by The Chicago Tribune. That said, after doing a search for other versions, it seems that no one took much creative license with it. As far as I can tell, everyone did their best to imitate the recipe, rather than change it, which is a glowing tribute to how good the original must have been. All of them used jumbo shrimp as well as French-style breadcrumbs, some used more garlic than others, a few tea-totalers sadly skipped the sherry, and, thankfully, no one added Parmesan cheese.
IF YOU TAKE THE TIME to compare my recipe to others, you will see it is indeed mine all mine, which includes my method for mixing the dish together, and if I do say so myself, it is better than than everyones. This dish is meant to be served in individual au gratin dishes as an appetizer, or, on a plate as a main course, but, not with or on any type of rice, noodle, pasta or potato.
Thanks to a friend who hailed from Chicago proper, along with a plate of shrimp de Jonghe, I was introduced to Gonnella French breadcrumbs in the early 1990's. Not a commercial bakery, for over 125 years, this company has been making their breadcrumbs made from their own hearth baked breads, purchasing no outside products. Thanks to the internet, you no longer have to know someone in Chicago to get them. French-style breadcrumbs really do take this recipe over-the-top, so, I've taken it one step further: I make my own. You can learn ~ How & Why to Make: (French-Style) Breadcrumbs ~ by Clicking into Categories 5 or 15.
2 pounds jumbo shrimp (16/20 count), peeled, deveined, tails left on, the best shrimp available to you (Note: To learn everything I can teach you about choosing shrimp, click into Categories 14 or 15 and read my post ~ Purchase Shrimp by their "Count", not their Size ~. To learn why to leave the tails on and when to remove them, read my Cook's Note at the end of this post.)
4 cups water
2 cups white wine
1 large, juicy lemon, cut in half
4 medium-sized bay leaves
For the sherry & butter-garlic mixture:
1/2 cup salted butter (1 stick)
4 large garlic cloves, run through a press
1/4 cup minced, fresh parsley
6 tablespoons minced shallot
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/2 cups French-style breadcrumbs
lemon wedges and parsley sprigs, for garnishing each finished portion
no-stick cooking spray, for preparing 6, individual-sized or 2-quart au gratin dish
~ Step 1. To cook the shrimp, place the wine and water in a 4-quart stockpot. Squeeze about half of the juice from each lemon half into pot, then add lemon halves. Add bay leaves. Bring to a boil, add shrimp, &, when water returns to a boil, cook exactly 1 minute.
~ Step 2. Drain shrimp into a colander, &, remove and reserve lemon halves. Rinse shrimp under under cold water until they are cool on the outsides but warm in their centers. Transfer shrimp to a large bowl. Add sherry, squeeze in the liquid from the lemons and toss to coat. Set aside.
~Step 3. In a 1-quart saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Stir in the garlic, parsley, shallot, paprika, cayenne and nutmeg. Adjust heat to very gentle simmer and cook about 1 minute. Remove butter mixture from heat and transfer to a 1-cup measuring container.
~ Step 4. Place the bread crumbs in a medium bowl, and, 2 tablespoons at a time, add and stir 6 tablespoons from the liquid-y top surface of the butter mixture into the the breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs should be moistened but still quite crumbly. Do not add too much butter.
~ Step 5. Using a large rubber spatula, add and fold all of the remaining butter mixture into the shrimp. Next, add 1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) of the moistened breadcrumbs to the shrimp and fold the breadcrumbs in. Continue folding until the breadcrumbs have absorbed all of the liquids (which includes the sherry and lemon juice puddling in the bottom of the bowl), and, the shrimp have a light coating of crumbs all over them. Oh yum -- I told you my method was better!
~ Step 6. Arrange 6 shrimp in the bottom of 6 small au gratin dishes that have been sprayed with no-stick cooking spray, or in the bottom of a 13" x 9" x 2" casserole.
~ Step 8. While shrimp can be placed in dishes 30-45 minutes prior to baking, they should not be topped with breadcrumbs until just before baking on center rack of preheated 375 degree oven a very short 6-8 minutes, until breadcrumbs are nicely golden. Do not not overbake, and, serve ASAP.
Shrimp de Jonghe going into the oven:
Breadcrumbs, Butter, Garlic + Shrimp 'de Jonghe': Recipe yields 6 appetizer servings (what you would expect to get in a shrimp cocktail -- 6 shrimp per person), or, 4 main-course servings (10 shrimp per serving).
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; garlic press; 4-quart wide-bottomed stockpot; colander; 1-quart saucepan; 1-cup measuring container; large rubber spatula; 6 individual-sized au gratin dishes, or, 1, 3-quart 13" x 9" x 2" casserole; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan & parchment paper (for individual-sized au gratin dishes only)
Cook's Note: A shrimp with the tail left on is a very pretty presentation, and, depending upon the dish being served, if there is a chance the diner can enjoy the shrimp whole, it serves as a convenient "handle" -- especially if there is a sauce it can be dipped into. There's more: As all shrimp connoisseurs know, the last bite of shrimp (located inside the tail), is the most succulent, tasty bite of shrimp. That said: Whether in the home kitchen or in a restaurant, peeling shrimp is labor intensive. Leaving the tail on is an indication that the cook or chef cares about you and is serving you the best quality shrimp possible.
The only reason to remove the tail is when the shrimp, usually smaller size ones, are inclusive in the dish, meaning: the diner needs a fork, spoon and/or knife to eat the dish.
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)