Butter-Poached Shrimp and Creamy Hoppin' John by John Currence
Credit: Maria Lapina / Getty Images

"People just throw shrimp on the grill and think that once they turn pink they're done," says John Currence, a former deckhand on a Gulf tugboat – and more recently, the 2009 James Beard Award winner for Best Chef South for his work at City Grocery in Oxford, Mississippi. "Instead they turn mealy and nasty. A proper shrimp should snap in your mouth like a hot dog." The best shrimp, to hear Currence tell it, is almost undercooked, wherein the carryover heat finishes cooking the protein. He loves to poach shrimp slowly in butter and serve them atop a bacony, buttery Hoppin' John with pigeon peas. "This one is all about simple and earthy flavors," says Currence.

Butter-Poached Shrimp and Creamy Hoppin' John (serves 6)

Ingredients

For Hoppin' John:

  • 3 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked pigeon peas (field peas or black eyed peas)
  • 2 tbsp clarified butter
  • 1 tbsp bacon fat
  • 1/2 cup minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup diced carrot
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 4 tbsp cold cubed butter
  • salt and black pepper to taste

For the shrimp:

  • 24 16-20 ct peeled, butterflied Gulf brown shrimp
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups clarified butter
  • 2 tsp Creole seasoning blend

Preparation

In a medium sauté pan, heat clarified butter and bacon fat over medium heat until the surface shimmers. Add the garlic, shallot, carrot, and celery, and sauté until carrot is tender. Stir in the bacon, peas, rice, red pepper flakes, and thyme; combine well. Add the stock and bring to a simmer, stirring. When the stock is almost fully absorbed (it should take about 3-4 minutes), remove the pan from heat and stir in cold butter. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Combine the shrimp with salt and pepper in a bowl and put it in the refrigerator for one hour. Warm butter in a medium sauté pan over low heat for 2-3 minutes. Split the shrimp into two batches. Add the first batch to the butter and turn heat to medium. Stir and turn the shrimp constantly and watch for them to begin to turn opaque, until the center of the cut where the shrimp have been deveined turns milky white. Remove from the pan, place in a stainless bowl and toss with half of the Creole seasoning. Repeat with the second half of the shrimp. Spoon Hoppin' John into small bowls and top with shrimp, chopped parsley, and a spritz of lemon.