Thursday, February 16, 2012

What's Dish Yer Sauce?

The title is a joke-y way to refer to Worcestershire sauce. However, it isn't nice to tease a sauce that has had such a long career. It is a fermented fish sauce, the "fish" are anchovies which would have been a deal breaker if I'd know it before I ever tasted it..

But a fermented fish sauce was popular in Greco-Roman times which were not yesterday afternoon. The Brits brought it back to England when they had to abandon India. Back in Worcester, an English woman bewailed the loss of this sauce, but! She had a recipe which she turned over to a pair of enterprising chemists there. John Lea and William Perrins made her a barrel of it, tasted it and said, "Bleh!" (or words to that effect in those times.) So they stored the keg down in the basement and forgot about it for a couple of years. When they did come across it, they tasted the sauce again. "Ah, hah!" Now they had something.

The Lea & Perrins brand flourished from then on. In 2005 Heinz bought it, but still makes and labels it like the originals. Other vendors sell various brands of it, too - in Australia, Brazil, the US, China, Japan, Thailand and Indonesia. Orthodox Jews are banned from using it on meat; they aren't allowed to have fish with meat.

The rest of us use it in Caesar salad dressing; Micheladas, the Mexican beer cocktail and our own Bloody Marys.

And because I remembered to buy a bottle of it the other day, I can now make barbecued shrimp. The shrimp never go near a grill; it's the sauce that makes it barbecue flavored. Pascal's Manon, New Orleans, where we first ate it, has made their version the gold standard for this dish.

Here's my version of it, but I don't know how many shrimp you're going to use, so adjust the ingredients accordingly.

1 stick of butter melted. Add in:
1 T Worcestershire sauce
dash of lemon juice
pepper to taste
dash of Tabasco or other hot sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
Heat gently and pour over steamed shrimp with or without their shells.

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