[NOTE: Sadly, Uglesich's closed in 2005 when Anthony and Gail retired.]
Uglesich's is a mecca of New Orleans food, arguably one of the finest (if not THE finest, in some people's opinion) restaurants in New Orleans.
You'd never know to look at it, though.
Whenever I go home, I make sure I eat here at least once. The flavors you get in this place are amazing, and almost completely unique. Anthony and Gail Uglesich create their own dishes which aren't found anywhere else, for the most part (although their wonderful fried green tomatoes topped with shrimp remoulade popped up at Upperline, then elsewhere). It's worth standing in line for, since you're not going to get these dishes anywhere else.
Of all the dishes served at Uglesich's, Mr. Anthony tells us that this one's the spiciest. It's also one of the best, and thanks to the January 2001 issue of Saveur magazine and Mr. Anthony's generosity, the general public can now make his dish at home. (This'll help me get a nice little fix between visits to Uglesich's.) The article tells us that Anthony named the dish for his son John, who received the sobriquet "Uggie" from schoolmates who found the pronunciation of his Croatian surname too difficult to handle. (Oddly enough, some people can't even pronounce the nickname or the name of the dish. It's pronounced YOU-gee, with a hard "g".)
Bit of trivia #1 -- Croatian immigrants and their descendants have been the kings of the oyster fishing business for nearly a century in south Louisiana, and are the acknowledged experts at it.For the hot sauce used to make the marinade, Anthony recommends Melinda's, a habanero chile-based hot sauce bottled in New Orleans but made in Belize. It's hot, but very flavorful. You can use your favorite (and/or less powerful) hot sauce if you like, but if you want it to be authentic, use Melinda's if you can find it. If you can't get it locally, try Melinda's web site, Mo Hotta Mo Betta or HotHotHot!)
Bit of trivia #2 -- my friend Dule tells me that the original spelling of the Uglesich family name was most likely "Ugljesić", with a diacritical mark over the final "c" that looks like an acute accent (´).
Shrimp Uggie needs a two day to one week headstart to make the marinade, so take this into account when you're preparing the dish. As wonderful and complex as this dish tastes, it's surprisingly easy to make.
Place all ingredients except the shrimp, potatoes and chives into a glass bowl and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and keep in the refrigerator at least overnight and up to one week (the longer the better, so that the flavors will have more time to marry and intensify), stirring occasionally. Let the marinade come to room temperature before preparing the dish.
- 3 cups olive oil (not extra-virgin)
- 1 cup ketchup
- 5 ounces Melinda's habanero hot sauce (XXX, the hottest one they make; I guarantee the dish will be too mild without it, although you may substitute if you're a pepper wimp, or add it a tablespoon at a time to taste.)
- 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 1 large or 2 small green bell peppers, stemmed, cored, seeded and cut into 1" pieces
- 1 medium red onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
- 2 pounds medium-sized shrimp, peeled and deveined, with tail left on (optional)
- 4 medium red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1" cubes, boiled until just tender and kept warm
- 4 chives, finely chopped
Using a large spoon, skim off almost all of the oil from the top of the marinade. (You can either discard it or use it for a basting sauce or any other use you can think of.) Pour enough marinade into a large skillet to partially cover the shrimp, then add the shrimp. Cook over medium heat just until the shrimp turn pink and opaque, about 3 minutes, then turn the shrimp, add the potatoes, then cook until the potatoes are heated through, about 2 to 3 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Split the Shrimp Uggie between four plates (use oval plates if you're striving for restaurant authenticity) and sprinkle with chopped chives. Usual garnish is a wedge of lemon and a sprig of parsley. Have plenty of cold beer handy, and watch your guests moan with pleasure.
YIELD: 4 to 6 servings.
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Chuck Taggart (e-mail chuck)