Thursday, June 19, 2008

Time Out on the Redneck Riviera

Waffle House on the Florida Gulf Coast

Finding a place to eat along the Gulf Coast can be difficult. Unless you have an unnatural fondness for Waffle House, that is. Apparently, lots of people do since they are *everywhere*. Seriously, what is up with all the Waffle Houses? On one stretch through Mississippi and Alabama, they were packed in so tightly that often while passing one you could already see the next one coming up.

The beaches were very nice, though. We stopped in for a few days in Panama City Beach. Crystal clear water at just the right temperature.

Beach at the Driftwood Lodge in Panama City Beach, Florida

Anticipating that good eats were going to be a problem, we booked a place with a kitchen. We went up the road to Buddy's Seafood Market to get something to cook up.

Buddy's Seafood Market in Panama City Beach, Florida

They had a small, but nice selection of local fish and shrimp. Shrimp seemed like a good call.

Gulf Shrimp

With New Orleans still on our minds, we came up with a dish we called Trinity Spaghetti with Shrimp and Tomatoes. Sherry used the heads and shells to make a quick stock that she used as the basis for the sauce.

Making Stock from Shrimp Heads and Shells

The final dish came out quite well. It didn't hurt that the shrimp were fantastic - great texture and flavor.

Trinity Spaghetti with Shrimp and Tomatoes

We thought it would be amusing to post a recipe from the road, so here it is:

Trinity Spaghetti with Shrimp and Tomatoes

The shrimp and sauce cook while the spaghetti is cooking, so be sure everything is ready before you drop the pasta. (Serves 2)

1 pound large shrimp, head-on
2 stalks celery, diced small
1/2 onion, diced small
1/2 green bell pepper, diced small
2 medium tomatoes, diced
4-6 ounces uncooked spaghetti
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, or as needed
Kosher salt

Heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Rinse and drain shrimp. Remove the heads and peel the tails, retaining all the heads and shells. Remove the vein from the back of each shrimp, then rinse, drain well and set aside.

Heat a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 2 teaspoons olive oil, then the shrimp-heads and shells. Let sizzle, stirring occasionally. After 5 minutes, add 3 or 4 tablespoons of water to the shells and stir. Repeat 2 or 3 times to create a few tablespoons of rich seafood broth.

Add salt to the boiling water then drop the pasta.

Heat a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil, then add the shrimp in a single layer. Cook 3 to 4 minutes, turning once, until pink on the outside and just opaque in the centers. Sprinkle lightly with salt, remove from pan and set aside.

If necessary, add more olive oil to the saute pan. Place about 2/3 of the celery, onion and bell pepper into the hot pan, sprinkle with kosher salt and saute about 2 minutes, then reduce heat. Drain the seafood broth from heads and shells into the vegetable mixture and stir through. Add the remaining celery, onion and bell pepper just before pulling the pasta.

When the spaghetti is al dente (9-11 minutes), drain and mix with the sauce. Top with the cooked shrimp and chopped tomato, stir gently and serve.


  1. I can't believe you went to a Tuscon truck stop and didn't visit a Waffle House. I had my first experience last February in Sarasota FL. Let me say that their waffles are flat, flaccid, and generally unspectacular. But the atmosphere is a nice slice of the redneck, especially if you go early in the morning.

  2. Hey Michael - I worked in the Atlanta area for over a year....and all the 'necks I worked with loved...Waffle House & Chik Fil A! Redneck heaven....

  3. Trent - there is still time left. We're still seeing plenty of waffle houses (currently in North Carolina). Nothing like the absurd quantity on the Gulf Coast, though.

    Kirk - I've never had Chik-Fil-A either. They exist in San Diego, and co-workers at my last job raved about it (while clutching at their hearts...)

  4. One thing good about a Waffle House... it is always open.

    Don't knock the scattered, smothered, covered, Chunked, diced, peppered, capped, and topped hash browns.

    They also have a jukebox playing 45s in nearly all of them.

    Started in Georgia BTW. But now a chain.

    I was in a band way back that traveled a fair amount. Our singer wrote a song titled "Waffle House" and the chorus involved "How many Waffle Houses does it take to get our destination?"

    Welcome to the South.

    Take care and enjoy.


  5. Matt - I was wondering when you'd chime in on this one :-)

    The South has been treating us very well so far.


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