Chef JJ Johnson will demonstrate how to make Gullah Shrimp Burgers at the Food & Wine Classic at Home this Thursday.

By Bridget Hallinan
July 23, 2020
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The Food & Wine Classic at Home is just around the corner. Our very own Justin Chapple will host a two-hour (free!) live-streamed event featuring tastings, seminars, and of course, plenty of chef demonstrations. You can expect to learn how to make ricotta and Parmesan gnudi from Kristen Kish, and a “Martha-Rita” and peach pavlova from Martha Stewart—JJ Johnson’s demo will feature a Gullah Shrimp Burger recipe from his James Beard Award-winning cookbook with Alexander Smalls, Between Harlem and Heaven

Johnson told Food & Wine that the goal of Between Harlem and Heaven was “to show the world that Black people just don’t cook soul food, or Southern food. That there’s more to our story, there’s a bigger conversation, there’s a foundation of where our food comes from.” The Gullah Shrimp Burgers, in particular, tell the story of a “very coastal area,” Johnson says—the Lowcountry Gullah islands—and “show these are some of the ingredients that you would see in that area of South Carolina, and [help] talk about where [the Gullah people] came from.”

Galdones Photography / Food & Wine

“The Lowcountry Gullah islands (located on the coast of South Carolina) offer a legacy of Africa and the Caribbean on the doorstep of the American South, and their culinary and social richness can’t be captured in any one thing,” he writes. “Which is why instead of trying that, we take inspiration from their cuisine and fly off to Asia.”

The resulting burgers, described by Johnson as “light and delicious,” are flavored with ingredients such as bird’s eye chili, soy sauce, finely grated lemon zest, and parsley. The recipe is also lightning-fast to make, and comes together in just four steps and 18 minutes. They’d be a perfect meal to enjoy during these hot summer months—check out some of Johnson’s tips for making the burgers below, and be sure to watch his demonstration during the Food & Wine Classic at Home, which will be streaming live on July 23, from 4:00 p.m.–6:00 p.m. EDT.

REGISTER FOR THE CLASSIC AT HOME HERE.

Don’t Worry if You Don’t Have a Food Processor

The first step of the recipe involves combining 1 1/2 pounds of shrimp (peeled and deveined) with the seeded and chopped chili, celery, eggs, and soy sauce in a food processor, pulsing until there’s a mix of “finely minced and coarsely chopped pieces of shrimp.” However, if you don’t have a food processor, Johnson says you can get the same result by taking a really sharp knife and finely dicing the shrimp.

Toast the Buns

For an extra special touch, try toasting the potato buns. Johnson says you can do it in a skillet with a little bit of butter in the bottom of the pan. (You’re already using the pan to cook the burger patties, so you might as well give the buns a crisp, too.)

Go for Sauces

Johnson says that this recipe is a “foundation that you can build on,” and a perfect example of that is how well the shrimp burgers pair with different condiments. Some of his suggestions include guacamole, chipotle spread, harissa aioli, and Cholula hot sauce

Try Them With Wine

Johnson describes himself as a “big summertime rosé person” and is a fan of Marcel rosé, which he says pairs really well with shrimp. For even more recommendations, we recently published a list of over 30 different rosés to try, ranging from Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rosé 2019 to Planeta Rosé 2019 Sicilia.

Feel Free to Scale the Recipe Up

As-is, this recipe yields six burgers; however, you can scale it up as needed, and Johnson says it’s “super easy to double or triple” and stash patties in the freezer before cooking. 

“It’s something that you can really make that people will really be excited about,” he says.

Get the Recipe: Gullah Shrimp Burgers

Order the Book: Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day, $22 (hardcover, was $37.50) at amazon.com