Photos courtesy of Cheri Sicard
Cheri Sicard wasn’t even a regular weed smoker till California’s Prop 215 passed in 1996, which legalized cannabis for medical use. At the time, the food and travel writer was suffering from chronic nausea, and her doctor suggested she try experimenting with herb in an edible form. Much to her own surprise, Sicard ended up wielding her cooking writing and recipe development skills to trailblaze the state’s edibles market. In the two decades since she first tried marijuana, Sicard has penned two pot-specific books (in addition to five others she published), including one dedicated to making food (The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook), and the other on the intersection of femininity and marijuana called Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women.
Sicard caught up with MERRY JANE and shared a seriously dank recipe for NOLA-style shrimp with us. On top of the food advice, she chatted about how senior citizens fit into modern-day cannabis culture, and her efforts to help non-violent prisoners with marijuana-related life sentences.
New Orleans OG “Barbecue” Shrimp
I’m not sure how this famous New Orleans recipe came to be known as “barbecue,” as there is no grill, fire, or smoking involved. Nonetheless, it’s intensely-flavored, herb-laden sauce is delicious. Serve with plenty of crusty bread for soaking up every drop.
2 tablespoons canna-butter
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 cup beer
1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
3/4 pound unpeeled large raw shrimp, heads removed
Crusty bread for serving
Melt canna-butter and regular butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, beer, rosemary, oregano, thyme, basil, pepper, and heat to bubbling. Add shrimp to skillet and cook, stirring and turning shrimp occasionally, until shrimp are pink and cooked through (about five minutes will do). Divide broth and shrimp between two bowls and serve with plenty of crusty bread.
Above: Cheri Sicard holding one of her awesome books.
MERRY JANE: Tell me a little how The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook came together. How did your cooking with weed evolve to the point of being considered gourmet?
Cheri Sicard: The Cannabis Gourmet Cookbook was my first book on cannabis (Mary Jane: The Complete Marijuana Handbook for Women was my second cannabis book and seventh book overall). It evolved because I was a professional food, wine, and travel writer before cannabis entered my life. But when I started to learn to cook with cannabis, there was so much conflicting information out there. I had to figure out what worked best for me, the home cook. That book was published back in 2012 and I have learned a whole lot more since then, so I recently launched a complete online cannabis cooking course for home cooks that incorporates everything the book has, plus a whole lot more. Students can learn on their schedules and I am always there to help and troubleshoot.
What were some of the first lessons you learned during early recipe attempts?
I already knew how to cook and had been professionally developing recipes for home consumers for years at this point, but I did have to learn the principles of how to successfully cook with marijuana. This is what I try to get across to students in both my live and online classes: once you learn the basic rules about temperature, decarboxylation, and especially dosing, the rest is just cooking. My biggest problem when I started is something all cannabis cooks struggle with: dosing. My first batches were unbelievably strong. But my friends and I have some good stories from then!
What do you think people get wrong about edibles or even cannabis in general?
Dosing is the No. 1 problem area and the topic I consistently get the most questions about, which is not surprising — as people metabolize cannabis drastically differently. While 10mgs of THC is too much for some people, 100mgs will not be enough for others. And while some people have a problem with [dosing too high] like I did when I started, more often than not I hear from people that they are not getting enough out of a dose. I released a free online course a few months to help people with this because I was getting so many questions. In it I teach people how to estimate how many milligrams of THC are in edibles they make, so they can then adjust to meet their individual needs.
Besides cooking with weed, you do work with Senior Stoner. Tell me how you got interested in the relationship between seniors and cannabis. How do edibles fit into that?
I do a lot of things within the movement besides cooking with marijuana, although that is a focus. My company produced Senior Stoner because the 50-and-older crowd is the fastest growing demographic among cannabis users. To be honest, the site that is currently online is a prototype to attract investors, so at present we are not putting a lot of energy into that project (unless you know a potential investor). The older crowd does tend to favor edibles a lot...
I am also the founder of the Marijuana Lifer Project, a nonprofit organization that advocates for nonviolent federal prisoners serving life sentences for marijuana, a cause that is near and dear to my heart. It just haunts me that anyone can be sentences to spend the rest of their life in prison, until they die, over marijuana in the so-called “Home of the Free, Land of the Brave.”
How did you develop the recipe you're sharing today? Do you have any pairing tips?
This recipe, New Orleans-Style BBQ Shrimp (why they call it BBQ shrimp is beyond me as it is not barbecued, but that’s Southern logic for you) is one of my favorite dishes. Since it contains a substantial amount of butter, it’s natural to adapt the recipe using marijuana butter. But what I especially like about it is that it has so many flavors and textures going on — and the flavor of the cannabis melds right on. As for a pairing, if you can cook with a strain high in the terpene alpha pinene, the flavor of the weed will meld with the rosemary (also high in alpha pinene), which helps season the dish.
For more information on Cheri Sicard's various projects in the cannabis industry (including more of her amazing recipes), visit her website here.
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