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Shrimp bordelaise faceoff! August 18, 2010

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Seafood, Wolfe recipe.

It’s never a good thing when you’re at your fishmonger and you’re ordering some shrimp and your fishmonger asks if you’re having guests over, due to the quantity you’re buying. And you are forced to respond, “err no, it’s just for the two of us, but I’m making the same recipe twice to test it……”. And the fishmonger looks at you like you’re a bit strange but at least you leave with the correct amount of shrimp!

The challenge: To test out Nero Wolfe’s statement that garlic, not onion, improves the overall shrimp bordelaise dish (Murder is Corny).

The method: Make the same amount of shrimp bordelaise, half with onion and half with garlic, and properly assess if onion, or garlic, better improves the dish.

To best assess if garlic or onion was better for shrimp bordelaise, I decided to cook both versions at the same time, to ensure that different cooking time or cooking method were not factors in the overall outcome of the dish. To prepare, I chopped up carrots and shallots for both dishes, then 1 clove of garlic and 1 tablespoon of onion for the two saucepans.

While I didn’t have two saucepans of exactly the same size, I matched them as best I could. To each saucepan, I added half the carrots and shallots, parsley and bayleaf, then the onions to one and garlic to the other. I sautéed these gently to ensure they didn’t burn.

One thing I noticed immediately was that there was more moisture in the onion saucepan, which was not surprising, but the difference was noticeable. After the vegetables had softened, I added white wine, cognac (bought especially for this recipe!) and the shrimp. After the liquid had boiled, I reduced the heat so the liquid just simmered, and shook the saucepans while the shrimp was cooking.

It didn’t take long for the shrimp to cook, and I removed them into two bowls in order to prepare the sauce. At this point I also took out the parsley and bay leaves from the saucepans. I turned up the heat to reduce the liquids and when they’d reduced by about half, I added a beurre manie mixture (flour and butter) to thicken the sauces.

In arranging the two bordelaise samples on the plate, I was careful to keep them separate! I also made sure we knew which was which by marking them with…appropriate markings.

The verdict: I hate to say it. I really do – I don’t like disagreeing with Nero Wolfe at all – but we both preferred the shrimp bordelaise with the onion. I was actually amazed that one clove of garlic and one tablespoon of onion made such a difference! Overall, both versions were very nice, with the sauce providing a nice contrast to the shrimp. However, the version with the onions was sweeter and juicier than the garlic version, and seemed to display more depth of flavour.

The conclusion: It does pain me to disagree with any of Nero Wolfe and Fritz’s culinary knowledge or experimentation, but I really did feel that the onion version was better. However, I am more than happy to admit that this is because of my untrained palate, or the quality of the onions and garlic I was using. Overall, this was a good experiment to undertake, and next time someone asks me if I prefer onions or garlic in my bordelaise, I’ll have solid empirical data to back up my opinion!


1. Louise Coleman - December 11, 2016

Frankly, I would think the use of BOTH the onion and garlic would produce the best taste. But, then, being from New Orleans, I put both in everything except desserts.

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