What happens when you put a New Orleans spin on shrimp and grits? If chef Alex Harrell is in the kitchen, then it’s Gulf Shrimp and Creamed Rice.
Harrell’s new restaurant Angeline opened in New Orleans’ French Quarter this spring, and we’re dying to make the trip to the Big Easy to try the Gulf Shrimp and Creamed Rice for ourselves. In the meantime, we’ll happily settle for a Q&A with Harrell, the man behind Angeline’s fresh, seafood-filled menu.
What’s the story behind Angeline?
Angeline is the culmination of my personal experiences growing up in South Alabama and my professional experiences in New Orleans and Charleston. We focus on contemporary Southern cooking with northern Mediterranean influences, and work primarily with local producers to source seasonally-inspired ingredients for my menus.
How does Angeline’s New Orleans home base inform the menu?
From the seafood of the gulf, to the produce of local farms, to the beef that we source from my father’s farm in the panhandle of Florida, Angeline’s menu is populated with coastal influences.
Our coastal location also influences the way that I prepare and present the food at Angeline. I have always felt that Southern coastal food is lighter in style due its French, Spanish, Italian and Caribbean influences. And in the South, a lot of the time it is simply too hot to eat heavy foods.
I cook in a lighter style to show my guests that Southern cuisine doesn’t always have to be heavy, fried, and rich. In fact, historically, Southern cuisine was based on vegetables, grains, and what could be caught in the lakes, the Gulf, and streams.
Shrimp and grits is a Southern seafood standard. So why creamed rice?
I love shrimp and grits, but I wanted to adapt the traditional dish so that it would have more of a sense of place in New Orleans and southern Louisiana. I use a local Louisiana pop corn rice as a supplement. Rice is such a base of both the Creole and Cajun culinary traditions that it ties the dish to the region.
What’s the best place to get fresh shrimp?
The best place to get fresh shrimp is always directly from the shrimpers themselves. I am very fortunate to have developed relationships with local fisherman in the area, so we always have direct access to wild caught Gulf shrimp. Farmers markets are also a great source for local seafood.
And if you can’t get fresh seafood, what’s the next best thing?
Most stores have an availability of frozen shrimp; you want to select wild-caught American shrimp. You can also adapt the creamed rice to accompany any other meat, if you don’t have access to seafood. Braised or roasted chicken legs with stewed tomatoes and okra would be excellent.
Can’t make it to New Orleans to try Chef Harrell’s Gulf Shrimp and Creamed Rice? Satisfy your shrimp craving with one of our 60 Favorite Shrimp Recipes!
Photos by Denny Culbert