Isaac Toups Shares His Recipe for Drunken Shrimp

The Cajun chef agreed to share with France-Amérique his recipe for drunken shrimp, a spicy dish deglazed with white wine that embodies his motto: “beauty in simplicity.”
© Denny Culbert


(Serves 2 to 3*)
1 tsp. fennel seed
1 tsp. black peppercorns
1 tsp. ground Aleppo pepper (or paprika or crushed red pepper flakes)
1⁄2 tbsp. kosher salt
1.5 lb. extra jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
2 tbsp. neutral vegetable oil, like canola or grapeseed
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp. chopped fresh oregano
1⁄4 c. dry white wine
1 c. shrimp stock (or unsalted fish stock)
10 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1⁄2-inch pieces
Juice of 1 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
Louisiana jasmine rice (or any medium-grain white rice), for serving

* If you want to make this for a group, instead of an intimate dinner, just double the recipe. You won’t be able to fit 3 pounds of shrimp in a single pan, so use two pans or cook them in batches.


1. In a small nonstick pan, toast the fennel seed and black pepper over medium-low heat until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Allow to cool and then grind in a spice grinder. In a bowl, combine the ground fennel and black pepper with the Aleppo pepper and salt. Lay the shrimp on a baking sheet and generously season both sides with the pepper mixture.

2. Heat the oil in a large heavy skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sear for 1, 1⁄2 minutes. Flip the shrimp, add the garlic and oregano, and cook for 10 seconds. Deglaze the pan with the white wine, being sure to stir with a spoon to the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the stock and tomatoes and cook until they are heated through. Crush the shrimp heads with the back of a spoon to release the juices. Remove from the heat and fold in the butter and lemon juice, quickly but gently. Serve over rice.


“Don’t be afraid of the shrimp heads,” says Isaac Toups, “they really make this dish! You don’t have to serve them with the heads on if you’re a big old scaredy-cat. But when you’re cooking them, gently crush the heads with the back of a spoon. This squeezes out a lot of extra flavor that amps up the dish.”


Recipe abstracted from Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups & the New Cajun Cooking by Isaac Toups and Jennifer V. Cole (Voracious Books, 2018) and published in the March 2022 issue of France-Amérique. Subscribe to the magazine.