Alabama Football is in my Crimson blood – I have been watching and going to football games longer than I can remember. I was raised this way – I can remember so many New Year’s Days, in the 70′s, when Alabama would be playing, again, in the Sugar Bowl for a National Championship. It was as big a tradition in our house at Christmas. Mama and Daddy would have an open house all day, always with the same menu – Chili, Barbeque, Turnip Greens, Black-eyed peas, Mexican Cornbread and Bloody Marys. The house would be decorated with Alabama posters and banners and shakers. Every room had a TV with a different bowl game, until the Sugar Bowl came on – then every TV would be on that channel. Friends would come and eat and watch football, but when the Sugar Bowl came on, only true Alabama fans would stay. Only true Alabama fans could handle the intensity.
Somehow, every SEC rival brings a different menu to the tailgate. Every Tennessee game is barbeque, the Florida game is usually fried shrimp, Auburn game is almost always chili and the LSU game is something Cajun-creole. A big football Saturday is a party every week – whether watching at home or tailgating. It is always a gathering of family and friends. Many years ago, when I lived in Panama City, before I was married, I found myself alone at my mom and dad’s house for the LSU game. My parents were in Baton Rouge at the game and Walt and Barbara, my brother and sister-in-law were out of town as well. I had no one to watch the game with. And I had to have a traditional cajun dish. Cooking alone made no since, so I went to a local, amazing restaurant in Panama City called J. Michaels. I got a to-go plate of their signature dish called Shrimp J. Michaels. I equipped myself with a six pack of beer, my delicious dinner and planted myself on the floor in front of the TV for the next four hours while Bama put another whipping on LSU. I yelled, cussed and cheered. Alone.
J. Michaels is a fantastic place for locals. In high school, many afternoons when the weather was starting to get cool in the fall, Susie and I would stop by after school for a dozen oysters. Raw oysters are a fantastic after school treat! This restaurant has moved around to several locations, but the food stays exactly the same. Visit their website here.
A few years after that LSU game, I was with some friends and someone said they had the recipe for that amazing shrimp dish. I listened but didn’t write it down, and tried to recreate it from memory. I came really close, and started making it often- always changing it up just a little.
Recently, I got a cookbook from the First United Methodist Church in Panama City, and there is a recipe for Shrimp J. Michael in it. It is really close to that original recipe I had, before all of my personal tweeking. Here is the recipe out of that cookbook, which claims to be authentic:
2 cans cream of celery soup
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 can water
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1/4 cup bell pepper
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup Rotel tomatoes
1 teaspoon pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon Lawry’s seasoned salt
2 Tablespoon Olive oil
2 lbs fresh, peeled & deveined raw shrimp
Saute all veggies in olive oil. Add Rotel tomatoes and simmer. Add shrimp and cook til pink. Add all the other ingredients and simmer about 20 or 30 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with sliced green onions and sliced fresh mushrooms.
I have never made this exact recipe because of my compulsive behavior of having to “Gina” it up. The temptation to stray and add this and that is too great. But I did make my version of Shrimp J. Michael recently and it was really fantastic. You would have to do a side by side taste test of this and a plate right out of the restaurant to know how far off I am from the original. Here is my version, which I obviously do not claim to be totally authentic, but pretty darn close:
2 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon minced garlic
1 chopped bell pepper
1 chopped onion
1 teaspoon salt
8 oz fresh sliced mushrooms
1 can Rotel tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs cleaned, peeled, deveined raw shrimp
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Juice of 1 lemon
2 more Tablespoons butter
1/3 cup cream
Saute garlic, bell pepper, onion and salt in butter until softened. Add mushrooms and saute a little longer. Add Rotel tomatoes and simmer for a minute, then add shrimp, curry and pepper. Add soups, Worcestershire sauce, Tabasco and lemon juice – use Tabasco to your own heat liking!
Simmer this for a little bit then finish with butter and cream – Serve over rice and garnish with green onions and more fresh mushrooms.
This dish is so easy, I hope everyone will try it. To all my Panama City locals, please let me know how close either of these recipes are to the original that you remember.