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A Taste of the Gulf at the White House

White House Executive Chef Cris Comerford higlights today's menu at the White House Mess including oysters, crab, shrimp and trout from the Gulf Coast region in honor of "America's Night Out for Gulf Seafood."

Today, hundreds of restaurants all across the country are celebrating “America’s Night Out for Gulf Seafood” by serving shrimp, oysters, crawfish and other Gulf Coast delicacies. Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, consumption of Gulf seafood has dropped, which is why we at the White House are so happy to play our part in reminding Americans that Gulf seafood is not only safe – but delicious. (In case you missed it, check out President Obama enjoying some seafood himself at a crawfish boil in Louisiana back in June and a video of the New Orleans Saints cooking up a gulf seafood storm in the White House kitchen.)

Gulf seafood has a special place in my heart – and not just because it’s truly some of the best seafood in the world. In September, I traveled to Louisiana to learn about the work done to ensure the safety of the region’s seafood. Since day one, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have been working with other Federal agencies and state officials to closely monitor seafood in the Gulf and ensure that the seafood that makes it to your grocery store or restaurant is safe to eat. I also gathered local chefs and chefs from around the country to cook seafood for a block party for the residents of St. Bernard Parish who returned after Katrina.  At that party, I had the honor of surprising one resident who walked into her new home for the first time since the disaster, greeted by the smell of homemade seafood jambalaya.

I’m excited to use the power of food once again to honor not only the Gulf, but some very special guests.  Tonight, the White House is hosting a holiday reception for the volunteers who worked so hard over the Thanksgiving break to put up our beautiful  decorations.  And at this event, we’ll be serving our guests a seafood bar highlighting Gulf shrimp and Florida stone crabs. All together, we’ve shipped in about 2,000 lbs of shrimp and crabs from the Gulf for our 2010 holiday parties.

The celebration of the Gulf doesn’t stop in my kitchen either. The White House Mess today has a menu overflowing with seafood from the Gulf, including:

Seafood Gumbo
Andouille, Gulf Shrimp from Venice, LA, Bayou La Batre, Alabama Lump Crab

Oyster Po-Boy
Fresh Alabama Gulf Oysters, Housemade Tartar, French Bread, Cajun Fries

Stacked Eggplant with Shrimp and Lump Crab Cream Sauce
Garden Eggplant, Angel Hair Pasta, Gulf Shrimp from Venice, LA and Bayou La Batre, Alabama Lump Crab

BBQ Shrimp
Traditional New Orleans Family Recipe with Gulf Shrimp from Venice, LA and Crusty French Bread

Speckled Trout
Speckled Trout from Gulfport, Mississippi, Brown Butter Sauce, Red Smashed Potatoes, Snap Peas with Candied Pecans

Duck Camp Beignets

And for you to enjoy a taste of the Gulf at home, here’s my Gulf Shrimp Cocktail recipe that I’ll be serving at the White House holiday parties.

Gulf Shrimp Cocktail (Serves 6)

For the shrimp:

  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup kosher salt
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 2 lbs large shrimp in the shell

For the Cocktail Sauce:

  • ½ cup chili sauce
  • 3 tbsp prepared horseradish
  • 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • ½ tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp hot sauce


Add the vinegar, salt and a halved lemon into a large pot of boiling water.  Add the shrimp, and cook for about three minutes, or until the shells turn pink.  Remove with a slotted spoon into a bowl of iced water.  When the shrimp are cool enough, peel the shells and devein.  Keep refrigerated until service. For the cocktail sauce,  combine all the remaining ingredients and set aside.