Sunday, April 10, 2011

Palace Cafe's Shrimp Tchefuncte (Part 2: The Recipe)

My good friend from graduate school, along with her husband and little boy, came to visit me in Pittsburgh last weekend on their way from Cincinnati to New York.  They had planned to arrive around dinner time on Saturday, and because their kid was nursing a cold, they wanted a low-key evening. So I decided to flex my cooking muscles and prepare dinner for everyone.

Having learned from the minor disaster that was Sunday Brunch a couple of weeks ago, I decided I would make something I've successfully cooked before.  I didn't have time to carefully look through my two very full binders of recipes, so I went with one of my all-time favorites:  Palace Café's Shrimp Tchefuncte.

Shrimp Tchefuncte
Shrimp Tchefuncte

As I mentioned in my last post, about two years ago I had found several versions of this recipe online, and I had blogged about my attempt at making it.  The very next day, a wonderful staff member at Palace Cafe actually commented on my blog and posted the actual recipe, with some interesting tidbits about the dish. I will post her comment verbatim here:

My name is Ali and I work for Dickie Brennan's Palace Cafe. So glad that you enjoy our Shrimp Tchefuncte. Looks like you did a great job repicating it. Just in case you were looking the original recipe, here it is. You can also find it on our website where we share many other recipes:

Rice Pilaf
2 oz Butter
3 C Converted/Louisiana Popcorn Rice
1 med Onion, diced
6 C Chicken Stock
Salt and Pepper

In a 5 quart sauce pan, melt butter and add diced onions and rice. Stir constantly until rice and onions brown. Add chicken stock, then bring to a boil. Stir, reduce heat to low and simmer. Cover and cook
for approximately 20 minutes. Check for firmness, uncover and let stand for 10 minutes. Season with
salt and pepper.

Meunière Sauce
1 tsp Black Peppercorns
8 Tbsp Heavy Whipping Cream
3 Lemons, peeled and quartered
2 lbs Unsalted Butter, room temperature
3 Tbsp Crystal Hot Sauce
¼ tsp Salt and White Pepper
7 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce

In a large sauce pan, combine peppercorns, lemons, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce over low heat. Reduce by 2/3. Add whipping cream and reduce by ½, stirring constantly. As you stir, press gently on
the lemon quarters to release the juices. Slowly add the butter by pinching off 2-3 ounces at a time and squeezing it through your fingers into the sauce pan, still stirring constantly (this is called “mounting
the butter”). As you add the last of the butter, remove your pan from heat; continue to stir. Add salt and pepper to taste. Strain through a fine strainer or china cap. Cover and set aside.

Sautéed Shrimp
3 C Domestic Mushrooms
3 C Green Onions
60 Shrimp
6 tsp Butter
Salt and Pepper

Wash (in cold water) and season shrimp with salt and pepper (we use our house Creole seasoning in the restaurant). Melt butter in a medium sauté pan, then add shrimp, green onions and mushrooms. Cook over medium heat for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly until shrimp turn pink. When ready to serve, add meunière sauce and heat.

Serving Instructions:
Pack rice in a cup (a shallow coffee cup works well). Invert the cup over the rim of your plate and lift slowly. Spoon Shrimp Tchefuncte around ¾ of the rice.

**Food for Thought**
The Tchefuncte River, located north of New Orleans was named after an Indian tribe that once inhabited the area.

Meunière: French for “miller’s wife”, refers to a style of cooking whereby food (usually fish) is seasoned, lightly dusted with flour and sautéed in butter. The sauce made from these drippings is then combined with lemon juice and parsley

[UPDATE 4/13/2011Palace Café was so sweet to post this recipe as well as some really useful tips on their own blog after reading my post, and then took the time to let me know!  See why I just loooove Palace Café??]

It was actually pretty close to how I had made it based on other recipes I had found online.  I had made this a number of times now over the past two years, with generally successful results.  When I make this at home now, I do make one important modification to the original recipe: As much as I think the real thing would be out-of-this-world delicious, I just can't bear to put two POUNDS of butter - that's eight sticks!! - into anything I make, particularly because I'm the one stuck with all the leftovers and that's a whole lotta butter for one person.  (There's still a part of me that wonders if the butter amount is just a typo! Actually, I kind of hope so! - UPDATE: Palace Café has confirmed the amount is NOT a typo. Yowza! Now I know why it tastes so good!)  So when I make this at home, I reduce the amount of butter in the sauce significantly, to about 2-4 tbsp (to taste), which I'm sure affects the flavor, but it's still quite good and I'm happy with it.

As I'm stirring the sauce, I try not to press too hard on the lemons for the juice.  I have learned the hard way that the sauce can quickly turn bitter if it is too lemony (though my using less butter could have thrown off the lemon-butter balance, causing the bitterness).  I adjust the proportions of the other ingredients as I go along to make sure all the flavors are well balanced.  The meunière sauce is what makes the dish, so it's important to get it right.

On Palace Café's Facebook page is a professional photo of the real deal, which obviously looks fantastic and much more appetizing than my homemade version. ;)  Their sauce is darker, which is curious, and the rice is different because I actually just used regular long-grain rice, which I readily had at home, rather than popcorn rice (a.k.a. American basmati rice or della rice).

As an aside, I will be back in New Orleans in January 2013.  You know where I'll be eating! :)