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Food Porn: A New Classic

Shrimp Henican at Commander's Palace

Shrimp Henican at Commander's Palace

On a recent visit to Commander's Palace, a restaurant that's always held a special place in my heart, I made sure to order a few favorites. It's nigh impossible for me not to call for the famous turtle soup au sherry (with that extra spike of sherry at the table, of course), or to end a meal without Café Brûlot and a Crème brûlée. But I also revisited a dish I hadn't had in a while, and it completely knocked me out: Shrimp Henican.

I don't know what, if anything, had changed since the last time I'd eaten that perfect little plate of food. I imagine it was me. But I couldn't help but marvel at the thing: Four large Gulf shrimp, cooked beautifully in a Crystal beurre blanc, plated atop pickled okra and tasso and a clear, spicy jelly flecked throughout with colorful bits of peppers, then topped with pickled red onions an a pinch of parsley. The savory shrimp combine with the tangy acidity of the pickles and onions, the sweet and spicy pepper jelly, and a wonderful burst of pork from the tasso -- a magnificent balance of flavors and textures, the kind of thing every cook and chef aspires to create and execute. When viewed from above the shrimp almost look as though they are galaxies floating in space, the flecks of pepper serving as colorful stars and planets. Truly, it's out of this world.

A few weeks later I had the good fortune to share a table with Ti Adelaide Martin at Cafe Adelaide, who was kind enough to fill me in on the background of this dish:

“The dish was actually invented during Jamie [Shannon]’s reign. It is one of very few items that do not come off the menu. We do NOT name dishes after people, but I needed to thank my dear friend and mentor Joe Henican and decided to name this dish after him since I knew it wouldn’t come off the menu. He has meant an awful lot to our entire family. We have versions of it at Cafe Adelaide and SoBou – Tasso shrimp corn dog at Cafe Adelaide and the Shrimp Pinchos at SoBou. Joe is a tall, handsome, gregarious fella who could not be considered petite. After we named the dish for him he thanked me and said he had just one comment: "If I had to name a dish after him, could it at least be called JUMBO shrimp?”  It is one of those things where the combination of flavors just mix to make the whole better than all the pieces and in a very unique way. The pickled okra is a crowning touch.”

I couldn't agree more. Now, when I pay a visit to the Palace (or SoBou or Cafe Adelaide, for that matter), I know I'm going to have to order the Henican, if only as a starter for the table. It has become, at least in my mind, a modern classic. I can't tell you how it makes my heart sing that Ms. Martin declared it would never come off the menu.

Thank goodness for small favors. And for Shrimp Henican. And turtle soup, and Café Brûlot and Crème brûlée. Thank goodness for Commander's Palace and for New Orleans.


Native New Orleans food writer Scott Gold, author of The Shameless Carnivore, has written for Gourmet, The New Orleans Advocate, Gambit, ThrillistEdible Brooklyn, Tasting Table, The Faster Times, and other publications. His Food Porn Friday column for NolaVie offers a weekly mouth-watering photo essay designed to start culinary conversations in the Big Easy. Find him on Twitter @scottgold.