I always love going home to south Louisiana. Living in New England can’t bring me close to the drapery of the Spanish moss on the two hundred year old oak trees, the Zydeco music, the festivals, or the passion for fresh, Gulf seafood. People travel from all over the world to my home state to experience what I grew up with.
SHUCKS! The Louisiana Seafood House! in Abbeville used to be a small, little restaurant along the Vermilion River, but has since moved a little further up the road. Doesn’t seem to have affected it’s traffic one bit - we were one of the first patrons in the restaurant and by the time we left, there was a good sized waiting list for a table. My dad and I had stopped in Maurice, population less than 1000 and still by definition a village, to buy a turducken, which I packed in a soft-sided cooler and brought back to Boston with me, and which then made it’s way on to Montreal, Canada for Christmas dinner. Since Abbeville is not much further down the highway, we decided to have dinner at the former riverfront restaurant.
We had the sweetest waitress waiting on us. With every pass or stop at our table, she would call my 85 year old dad “honey,” “sugar,” “baby.” I asked her recommendation for an entree, and with a huge grin, she suggested the “Sassy Shrimp.” The name alone was enough to tempt me. It was on the menu as an appetizer, with a hint of what to expect: “Sassy because initially sweet, then it talks back.” My kinda of south Louisiana seafood eatin’!
Our waitress said she could make a special order of Sassy Shrimp as an entree. In great description, and with the conviction of a true local, she rolled out words like “fresh Gulf shrimp,” “smooth on the first bite, then it has a real spyyy-ceee bite! Umph!” All with the head shake for emphasis. “It’s made with that Steen’s Cane Syrup, you know, Steen’s” - SOLD! Before she even finished telling me, I jumped in - I was on it! Yum-yum! I love Steen’s Cane Syrup, and anything that has it, I want it. Steen’s has been produced in Abbeville since 1910. Pure, 100% cane syrup, made right from the sugar cane fields surrounding the town, and in December, in the final stages of sugar cane harvesting and producing season.
I started with a bowl of duck and andouille gumbo, the perfect compliment to my Sassy Shrimp. When my Sassy Shrimp arrived, forget what was on the rest of the plate - it was all about the Sassy Shrimp. Each of the 6 butterflied shrimp had a deep golden, caramel glaze on it, perfectly seasoned with the Steen’s cane syrup, pepper and spices. There was a good “kick” to each bite, just like promised, but washed down with a cold beer, it was true harmony.
I was missing home more and more with each forkful. Sassy Shrimp is just that - sassy!