For 81 years, Uglesich’s Seafood Restaurant was a New Orleans institution; one of their famous dishes included a so-called “muddy waters” sauce served over fish. They’ve been closed for over a decade now, but the Big Easy’s Jack Rose restaurant (located in the Pontchartrain Hotel) serves this delicious shrimp dish in homage. The shrimp shells are simmered for a rich stock, which forms the base of the sauce along with tomatoes, white wine, and lots of butter, plus oregano, garlic, and red chile flakes for extra kick. At the restaurant, they serve this with squid ink campanelle, but it’s great over any kind of pasta—or grits, polenta, or rice.
Note: Royal Red Shrimp are a highly prized Gulf Coast variety with a rich, sweet, oceanic taste often likened to lobster or bay scallops. If you can find them, use them, but if not, buy the best, freshest shrimp you can get; the sauce will still taste fantastic. But be sure to buy shrimp in the shell, since you need them for the stock. If you’re cooking Royal Reds for the first time, be aware that they have a naturally pinkish color, so it can be harder to tell when they’re done—be careful not to overcook them!
- Difficulty: Easy
- Total: 1 hr 20 min
- Active: 30 min
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup onion, minced
- 1/2 cup celery, minced
- 1/2 cup carrot, minced
- 1/4 cup garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 tablespoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
- 1 quart strong shrimp stock (instructions for making are part of recipe)
- 5 pounds 10-15 count Royal Red shrimp
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 tablespoons butter, cubed
- Peel and devein the shrimp, reserving the shells. Season shrimp with salt and pepper and place in refrigerator.
- Place the shrimp shells in a 1.5 quart saucepan, add just enough water to cover, and bring to a simmer. Allow shells to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Strain the stock into a large bowl or other container and set aside. Discard the shells.
- Heat a 2-quart saucepan over low heat until hot, add 2 tablespoons olive oil and allow to warm through, then add the onion, celery, and carrot and sweat, stirring frequently, for 4-5 minutes or until aromatic.
- Add garlic, red chile flakes, and tomato paste and sweat for 2-3 more minutes.
- Deglaze pan with the white wine.
- Add salt, sugar, and oregano. Allow contents to come to a boil and cook until reduced by half.
- Add reserved shrimp stock and simmer for 15 minutes or until all flavors have had a chance to mesh.
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. In small batches, sear the shrimp on both sides until golden brown and just cooked through (be careful not to overcook), removing to a plate when done.
- Return all of the cooked shrimp and any accumulated juices to the cast iron skillet and pour the muddy waters sauce over the top. Add the butter a few cubes at a time and stir until well incorporated. Sauce should be a rich brown color with a “muddy” hue and glossy shine.
- Serve over grits, rice, or pasta.
Photograph by Randy Schmidt.