Sassafras Trees & Fil&#233 Powder

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I’m always looking for new ways to make my Creole & Cajun cuisine more authentic, and a great way to do this is to make as many ingredients as possible from scratch, no matter how painstaking the process. Although for me, the more painstaking the process, the more fun I have doing it. 🙂

I’ve always wanted to make my own Fil&#233 powder from scratch but didn’t have access to a Sassafras tree. Last fall I found a tree near my home here in Michigan, but never got around to harvesting any branches, so I took care of that today. It will be interesting to taste true, pure Fil&#233 powder, as most store bought varieties have some kind of addition such as Thyme.

When looking for a Sassafras tree look for leaves as seen below, with smooth edges. There is a weed here in Michigan that looks very similar, but has jagged edges. Some sassafras leaves are mitten shaped, some have 3 prongs, and some are football shaped. If you can get to it’s roots they will smell strongly of Root Beer.

My friend Bill Moran at Texas Chef says that it’s important to dry the leaves on the branches. He also says that if you have large branches to hang them from the gutters on your house. I’ve simply bound the branches together and hung them upside down from a fence:

More to come on this topic when my Sassafras leaves are totally dry.

Be sure to check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes!

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Homemade File Powder
File Gumbo Recipe
File Powder

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Barbecue Shrimp Recipe

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This dish is a New Orleans mainstay, created by Pascal’s Manale located at:

1838 Napoleon Avenue
New Orleans, LA 70115
(504) 895-4877

There are so many imitations that the dish has kind of reinvented itself from the original at Manale’s. The main ingredients in the sauce of most versions are usually: Butter, Rosemary, Garlic, Black Pepper, and Worcestershire.

I’ve been wanting to post this dish for quite awhile, but I haven’t been able to locate head on shrimp until now. The fatty red substance in the shrimp heads, akin to the lobster’s tamale, is the key to your sauces flavor for this dish. The dish made with head off shrimp will be very good, but true flavor authenticity lies in the shrimp heads. I found my head-on shrimp in an Asian specialty store. Look long and hard like I have. You will find them and they will be worth every last bite.

New Orleans Style Barbecue Shrimp Recipe

2 Sticks of Unsalted Butter
2 Tbsp Garlic, minced
1/2 tsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
1/2 tsp Fresh Oregano, chopped
1 tsp Fresh Rosemary, chopped
1/2 Cup Abita Amber beer, or another good quality beer
1 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
2 Tbsp Crystal Hot Sauce
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp Black Pepper, freshly cracked
3 Tbsp Italian Parsley, minced
1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 lbs Head on/shell on shrimp

Preheat an oven to 450 degrees F.

Melt 2 Tbsp of the butter in a large cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute until slightly browned. Add the fresh herbs and cook for 2 minutes. Deglaze with the beer, reduce by half.
Add the lemon juice, Worcestershire, hot sauce, black pepper, kosher salt, cayenne pepper and the shrimp, tossing to coat well. Transfer the shrimp and sauce to a baking dish where the shrimp can bake in the sauce in a single layer. Place into the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes. Do not over cook the shrimp!

Serve in a large bowl with the chopped parley, your favorite beer, and lots of fresh French Bread for dipping in the sauce.

Serves 2.

Be sure to check out my ever growing Index of Creole & Cajun Recipes!

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