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Shrimp and Grits with Sauce Américaine

Serves 2

Sauce américaine is a misnomer. It translates from French to American sauce. It is a “classic” preparation in which the lobster is dismembered alive, sautéed in butter and olive oil, flambeed in cognac (what a way to go!) and simmered in a tomato sauce seasoned onions, shallots, garlic, parsley, and white wine. I add tarragon and marjoram or oregano. The dish is thought to have originated in Brittany and its current name a bastardization of its the original name, derived from Armorica, the ancient name of the Brittany peninsula. There is another school of thought that it is a provincial fish. The seasoning and ingredients push toward Provence’s claim as the provenance. The thing is, it is a pain to prepare and a pain to eat. Pieces of lobster, in its shell, in a messy tomato sauce, is difficult to handle at the table.

It works much better with shrimp, scallops, and oysters. So first lets consider shrimp and below we look at variations with scallops or oysters.

Serves 2

Time requirement: about 1 hour.

What you will need:

¾ pound large shrimp (16-22 cout) peeled and deveined. h

3 tablespoons butter.

4.5-5 ounces onion finely chopped.

4.5-5 ounces shallots finely chopped.

1 clove garlic peeled and chopped.

1½ cups tomato sauce. This can be from a can or dilute ¼ cup tomato paste in 1¼ cup water.

1 tablespoon chopped parsley.

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon.

1 tablespoon chopped fresh marjoram.

1 bay leaf.

1½ cups white wine.

½ teaspoon salt.

Cayenne pepper to taste.

2 tablespoons olive oil.

¼ cup cognac.

While you are preparing the dish, makes from grits. I find Bob’s Red Mill Grits fast and easy to prepare.

Optional: a 12 ounce can of V8 juice. (This is useful if you need to thin the finished sauce.)


Wash the shrimp well. Place them on several layers paper towels and cover with additional layers of paper towels. Set aside.

In a 12-inch frypan, heat the butter over a medium heat. When the butter foam subsides, add the shallot and onions. Cook or 5 minutes, stir frequently, to give them a little color.

Add the garlic, tomato sauce, parsley, tarragon, marjoram, white wine, salt, and the cayenne pepper to taste. Let the sauce simmer for 30 minutes. Regarding the use of cayenne pepper, my preference is none. If the sauce becomes too thick you can thin it with water, wine, or as I mentioned above, V8 juice. Wait until the sauce has reduced to determine if it needs any additional salt. At that time, taste and adjust for salt.

After the sauce has simmered for 30 minutes, in another 12-inch frypan, sauté the shrimp in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 3 minutes. While the shrimp cook, toss them in the pan. After 3 minutes, pour the cognac over the shrimp and ignite. When the flames cease, serve the shrimp over grits on warm plates and surround with the sauce.

Scallops with Sauce Américaine

The Grits are optional here.

Sauté 6-8 large scallops in 2 tablespoons of olive oil for 3 minutes on each side. Make sure they are dry when the go in the pan, so they do brown. Add the cognac. Allow the alcohol in the cognac to burn off.

Divide the scallops between two warm serving bowls and ladle around them the hot tomato sauce.

Oysters with Sauce Américaine

Dilute the tomato sauce to the consistency of a tomato soup. The V8 juice works well here. When the soup is bubbling in the stove, add ¾ pint shucked oysters. Cook for 2-3 minutes to heat the oysters. Serve in warm bowls. If you miss the cognac, feel free to reduce ¼ cup cognac by half and add it to the soup just as you are ready to serve it.


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