For a Pacific Northwest city girl like me, traveling to Southern Louisiana for the first time can be described as a cultural history lesson that is full of everything you would expect Cajun country to be, and then some. As an invited guest of the Tabasco company I spent several days on Avery Island along with several other food bloggers. We experienced the beauty of the Bayou and got a close up and personal look at one of America’s most beloved companies, Tabasco. The founder Edmund McIlhenny started selling his infamous hot sauce in the early 1870’s and Tabasco is still family owned and operated after all these years.
From the moment our van pulled up to the former sugar plantation mansion on Avery Island, I was struck by the history of the surroundings, beautiful wildlife, and the swamp land. I was most intrigued by the generational stories of haunted rooms, ghosts, and tragic deaths within the families whose roots are tied to the McIlhenny, Avery, and the Marsh families. Some of these stories are like urban legends, but they made my stay there at the private Marsh house so much more fascinating. For example, there are rumors of ghosts haunting particular rooms in the Marsh house, which no one can confirm or deny. Our quest for answers were usually met with laughter only fueling our curiosity and encouraging us to live out our Nancy Drew fantasies. The only homes on the island are occupied by family members, and if you ask anyone who lives in a particular house the answer is always: “family.”
Avery Island is also home to a large salt dome, and the offices and manufacturing plant of Tabasco pepper sauce. If the name Avery Island sounds familiar to you it is probably because it is prominently printed on every label of Tabasco.
During our stay on the island we were treated to crawfish boils at the Mclhenny Trappers camp, airboat rides in the swamp (gators and all), a tour of the Tabasco plant, and daily meals at the Marsh house with Tabasco CEO Tony Simmons.
The Marsh house is also where we stayed, which is an experience in and of its self. Generational photos and paintings of the families’ history proudly adorned the walls. One could easily make assumptions about the families living on this island, yet I found each and every one of them wonderful down to earth people. Especially Tony Simmons, whose pride of this company is deeply rooted in family, a commitment to high quality, and driven by hard work ethics as they continue to use the very same recipe that started Tabasco’s road to fame.
Today I’m sharing with you one of two recipes I’ve developed for Tabasco using their Sweet and Spicy pepper sauce. The first recipe is for a Sweet and Spicy Shrimp Rangoon made with a sweet and spicy cherry cilantro sauce that adds a nice pop of flavor to the basic cream cheese and shrimp Rangoon most people are familiar with. These Rangoon’s make the perfect party appetizers. I’ve served them several times since my time on Avery Island and my friends and family always ‘ooh and awe’ over them. They disappear very quickly, which is always the ultimate compliment!
Disclosure: My trip to Avery Island was provided by Tabasco and I was hired to develop recipes using their products.
- ¼ cup cherry preserves
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
- 2 teaspoons Tabasco Sweet and Spicy sauce
- 24 wonton wraps
- 6 ounces medium (cooked) salad shrimp
- 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1 egg, beaten
- canola oil
- In a small bowl mix the cherry preserves, 2 tablespoons cilantro, and Sweet and Spicy Tabasco sauce until well mixed. Set aside.
- Using two large baking sheets, place the wonton wrappers on the sheet in layers, not overlapping.
- Add ½ teaspoon of the cherry cilantro sauce to the center of each wonton wrapper.
- Add1/2 teaspoon cream cheese to the top of the sauce.
- Add 2 teaspoons of shrimp to the center mixture.
- Sprinkle a small pinch of cilantro on top of each shrimp.
- Using your finger, paint the egg wash to 2 connecting sides of the wrapper (L-SHAPE). This will serve as the glue. Fold the unglued side over the glued side and press the seams together to seal.
- In a small pan, pour enough oil so it is about 1½-inch high. Heat the oil on medium heat.
- When the oil is hot enough (flick a drop of water and if it sizzles or pops, it's ready), place 2-3 wontons in the pot. Do not overcrowd the pot.
- Deep-fry the wontons for 30 seconds on each side or until golden.
- Carefully place cooked wontons on a plate covered with paper towels.
- Serve immediately.