Cooking Up Shrimp Monica

A few weeks ago in New Orleans was Jazz Fest. Jazz Fest is an annual celebration of the music and the culture of New Orleans held late April. The music is always phenomenal and the food, oh the food, is a reason to hop a plane and get yourself to the fairgrounds all by itself. But alas, other commitments prohibited going this year.

So, we decided to recreate a little Jazz Fest in our home in New York.

For the food, some of our past favorites to snack on while at Jazz Fest were crawfish beignets, po’ boy sandwiches, jambalaya, and red beans and rice. But our favorite was Crawfish Monica. It is not a complicated dish, the ingredients are readily accessible in the rest of the country - but it is amazing!

So, on a recent night, Jesse and I turned on some Irma Thomas, and got to cooking. Once a recipe had been decided on, we very quickly remembered that we are in New York, and don’t have access to fresh crawfish. We do have shrimp, though! That could probably substitute - right?

I’m sous-chef in the kitchen, which means that I chop everything and Jesse takes responsibility if it turns out badly. Works well for me.

See the chop on the onions and garlic? All me! Look at all the onion the recipe calls for. . . and the onion powder too?! And just the littlest amount of garlic. How is this not going to just taste like onion? I was a little nervous that this whole dish would just taste like onion.

But we continued on, cooking the shrimp in the heavy cream. (No wonder my pants are always a little tighter after coming back from New Orleans.)

I wish you could have smelled it! SO GOOD! Oh, did I mention that the whole thing goes over pasta, with a nice handful of parmesan cheese? At least it is going to be so heavy that I’ll probably only be able to eat a small amount (or so I thought).

Oh New Orleans, I feel like I’ve unlocked your secret. 8 different spices coming together to form the YUM factor that makes everyone quiet down for a minute around the dinner table. That moment must be amazing for a chef - when everyone is stunned by how good the food is that they are rendered speechless.

How am I supposed to go back to kale now?

Crawfish Monica

(Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse where I found it on


1 pound linguine or fettucine 2 tablespoons olive oil 6 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 cup chopped yellow onions 2 tablespoons minced garlic 2 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows 1/2 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon cayenne 1/4 cup dry white wine 2 cups heavy cream 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice 1 pound crawfish tails* (we used peeled shrimp and upped the cooking time) 1/2 cup chopped green onions 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves 1 cup grated Parmesan


Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid. Return to the pot and toss with the olive oil and reserved cooking liquid. Cover to keep warm.

In a large saute pan or skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Essence, salt, and cayenne, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the white wine and cook over high heat until nearly all evaporated. Add the cream and lemon juice and cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly reduced. Add the crawfish tails (or shrimp) and cook, stirring, to warm through. Add the onions and parsley and cook for 1 minute. Add the cooked pasta and toss to coat with the sauce. Cook until the pasta is warmed through, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat and add 1/2 cup of the cheese.

Turn out into a serving bowl and top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese. Serve.

*Crawfish tails can be purchased online and shipped through Cajun Grocer. Peeled medium shrimp can be substituted, but the cooking time must be increased to allow thorough cooking.

Emeril’s ESSENCE Creole Seasoning (also referred to as Bayou Blast):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika 2 tablespoons salt 2 tablespoons garlic powder 1 tablespoon black pepper 1 tablespoon onion powder 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper 1 tablespoon dried oregano 1 tablespoon dried thyme Combine all ingredients thoroughly.

Yield: 2/3 cup

What about you?

Have you been to Jazz Fest? Tried Crawfish Monica before? I would love to hear about it!