The first time this recipe came across my purview was during a culinary practicum at the University of New Orleans (UNO) Hotel and Restaurant Training (HRT) kitchen. The practicum consisted of the spring semester of 1984 where the Delgado Community College culinary apprenticeship shared a class with the senior HRT students, practicing restaurant operations in a learning environment. The senior HRT students ran the front of the house and the culinarians ran the back of the house. The first month involved making up rotations of team members and then developing menus based on various themes ranging from several cuisines to a Culinary Olympics menu as well. Most of the meals were prepared as a luncheon for UNO staff, but a few of the meals towards the finale of the course were dinner evening meals. One such meal was the French cuisine dinner, it was a 7 course event and also featured a pre-dinner party with canapes and Hors d’oeuvres, one of them was the Shrimp Imperial.
I was the sous chef for this particular meal, and while the designated chef apprentice became ill and missed this day I had to step it up and no backing out now even though I also happened to be running a 101 fever. I worked through the 14 hour day somehow without fainting or collapsing, I guess the adrenalin kept me going. I was young then and could endure a lot of adversity, but it certainly was a test of strength and stamina, the energy came from somewhere and is still a mystery to this day!
The second time I made this recipe was for a Halloween party I put together in 1992 at my home, of course it was a big hit. And the biggest hit for me was the first flirtation with my wife Monique was in reference to this dish. We were friends then and she told me “You can make these for me anytime”, and I said “There’s a price for everything!” So for a third time I made this dish for Mother’s Day a few weeks ago and again, Monique loved them.
This recipe calls for ½ lb. of back fin crabmeat and ½ lb. of claw crabmeat for added flavor, and I find the claw meat also adds a bit of firmness to the texture of the stuffing as well. The Panko breadcrumbs are actually an addition to the original recipe, and the cocktail sauce is served as an alternative to the traditional beurre blanc sauce that would be served on the side also. Another ingredient that is found in the traditional “Imperial” preparation is mayonnaise, and it has also been eliminated from this version.
After 25 years and only preparing this dish 3 times the historical recipe is finally documented and shared with you, and hopefully it will continue to impress those in your life too. I just hope to make it again sooner than later!
|2||Lb.||21-26 count Shrimp, tail on, butterfly|
|½||Lb.||Back fin Crabmeat|
|½||Cup||Green onions, chopped|
|½||Cup||Yellow onion, minced|
|½||Each||Juice from lemon|
|2||Tsp||Cajun Spice Blend, divided|
|1||Tsp||Crystal Hot Sauce|
|1||Cup||Italian Breadcrumbs, divided|
|1||Cup||Panko Breadcrumbs, divided|
|Procedure Steps – Pre-heat oven to 375° F.|
|1.||Have shrimp ready peeled and de-veined and butterfly leaving the tail shell intact, then gently toss with 1 teaspoon of the Cajun Spice Blend, keep chilled.|
|2.||Combine the remaining ingredients to make the stuffing, but reserving ½ cup each of the Italian and Panko breadcrumbs.|
|3.||Fill each shrimp with about 2 Tbsp of the stuffing gently squeezing the tail on top and the butterfly section on the bottom, and then place them on a greased sheet pan with the butterfly portion down and the tail wrapped around the top.|
|4.||Combine the reserved ½ cup each of the Italian and Panko breadcrumbs, then gently coat the outside of each stuffed shrimp and return them to the sheet pan.|
|5.||Place in the pre-heated oven and roast until shrimp are pink and crust is golden brown, approximately 20 – 25 minutes.|
|6.||Serve immediately with cocktail sauce.|