Published On: Tue, Dec 5th, 2023

This garlicky baked shrimp dish is handy on harried weeknights

This garlicky baked shrimp dish is handy on harried weeknights
This garlicky baked shrimp dish is handy on harried weeknights

As fall ebbs and winter looms, the days may grow chilly and a little gloomy, but there is so much to celebrate: first Diwali and Thanksgiving, and now Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa.

If you live on the east coast of the United States, it’s also a time to rejoice in the end of hurricane season, which runs June 1 to Nov. 30. True, most hurricanes get swirling in August and September, but as I flip my calendar to December, I breathe a little sigh of relief, and I often pull out “Cooking Up a Storm.”

Get the recipe: Garlic Shrimp Bake

The cookbook was first published in 2008, three years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Mississippi Gulf Coast and a collapse of the levees caused devastating floods in New Orleans, my hometown and where I was living at the time.

It is a collection of recipes, of course, but the book also contains life-affirming tales about how people reached out and helped one another in a time of crisis. “Cooking Up a Storm” grew out of a regular column in the Times-Picayune newspaper that focused on helping New Orleanians recover recipes lost to the floodwaters.

This fast, easy recipe for shrimp baked under a blanket of breadcrumbs, parmesan and herbs was contributed by Kelly Hamilton, a history professor, who ran culinary tours in the French Quarter. Her home flooded to the rafters, and volunteers from Oregon — so many kind people descended on the city to help — gutted the water-soaked structure. When their friends and neighbors in the Western state heard Hamilton had lost her cookbooks, they began sending her volumes to rebuild her collection. This recipe was one of her favorites from the bunch.

It’s also one that a dear friend from New Orleans makes again and again for her family.

The generosity and heartwarming stories that fill the pages of “Cooking Up a Storm,” which was lovingly written by food writers and former Times-Picayune columnists Marcelle Bienvenu and Judy Walker, make it a natural one to pick up around the holidays when I am at risk of getting lost in marathon baking, travel planning and gift shopping.

The stories it contains serve as a reminder that family, friends and neighbors are what matters, and even people we’ve never met can be compassionate, generous and giving. And, frankly, I’m sharing this recipe now because it is also a quick, delicious dinner idea to keep in your pocket during this hectic season.

The recipe is a snap to make. A single layer of shrimp is topped with garlicky seasoned breadcrumbs, which protect the delicate crustaceans as they bake. (It’s important to use large shrimp; smaller ones require less cooking time and will dry out before your topping crisps and turns golden.)

The dish smells great, too. You can eat it on its own or serve it with pasta, rice or a favorite grain, or on top of a salad.

And remember: This little dish comes to you thanks to the generosity of strangers who cared.

Get the recipe: Garlic Shrimp Bake

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