Grilled Shrimp Foursome, Part I

August 10, 2009

I shall be but a shrimp of an author.
~Thomas Gray, English poet

Shrimp are free swimming, decapod crustaceans with a thin exoskeleton classified in the infraorder Caridea. These bottom dwellers are widely dispersed throughout the world’s marine habitats. The current term “shrimp” originated around the 14th century with the Middle English shrimpe, akin to the Middle Low German schrempen, meaning “to contract or wrinkle.”

Much like meats and poultry with a bone in, shrimp grilled in the shells are more intensely and richly flavored. As an added benefit, leaving the shells on provides a buffer against overcooking, a malady that many shrimp grillers suffer. It should not be forgotten that these delicate shellfish continue to cook once removed from the grill. So, please keep that in mind as overcooked shrimp become mushy and tasteless.

Of course, seafood sustainability should be paramount when choosing shrimp. Currently, imported Black Tiger Shrimp, Tiger Prawn, White Shrimp, Ebi are market names to be avoided. Although shrimp propagate rapidly and are resistant to overfishing, both bottom drifting gillnets and trammel nets are used for shrimp fishing at sea, which can result in bycatch—unwanted fishes and mammals caught accidentally in fishing gear and discarded dead or dying overboard.

When purchasing, shrimp should have uniform color and feel firm to the touch and not limp.

The decision to devein (removing the intestinal tract of shrimp) is basically a matter of aesthetics and personal preference. The word vein is a misnomer as shrimp have an open circulatory system and no real veins. If you demand your shrimp deveined, you can still cook them in their shells. Without removing the shells, simply make a vertical slit with a sharp paring knife about 1/2 into the shrimp down the ridged back and remove the vein that runs down the center.


18 jumbo shrimp, peeled (except for the tails) and deveined

Herb & Lemon Marinade:
2 T sea salt
2 T freshly ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
1 T fresh tarragon or parsley leaves, stemmed and finely minced
1 T fresh thyme leaves, stemmed and finely minced
Zest of 1 lemon, finely minced
Juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C extra virgin olive oil

Place the salt, pepper, garlic, tarragon, and lemon zest in a mixing bowl and whisk to mix. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Stir in the lemon juice and olive oil. Let the shrimp marinate in a baking dish or large ziploc bag in the refrigerator, covered for at least 1 hour, turning so they are well coated. Soak wooden skewers in water during the marinating time.

Prepare the barbeque grill to medium high heat. In the meantime, place shrimp on skewers and return to the baking dish, allowing them to reach room temperature.

Place the shrimp on the grill and cook, turning once, until just pinkishly opaque and firm, about 2 to 3 minutes per side.

Serve with gribiche (June 2, 2009 post) or tomato relish.*

*Tomato Relish
2 medium ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, seeded and chopped
2 T yellow onion, peeled, halved and finely sliced
2 T capers, drained
2 T parsley, chopped
1 t red pepper flakes
1/4 C red wine vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

1/4 C olive oil

Whisk first 6 ingredients in a bowl and then season with salt and pepper to taste. Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking vigorously. Serve at room temperature.


16 jumbo shrimp, in the shell

Place cumin seeds in a small skillet and toast over medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally, just a minute or two, until they are fragrant. Finely grind in a spice or coffee grinder.

Roast ancho and poblano chilies directly over a gas flame, over a charcoal fire or under the broiler on a baking sheet until the entire surface is blackened and blistered, about 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Place the roasted, blackened chilies in a plastic bag to steam some. Rub off the charred skin, stem and seed.

5 sprigs fresh thyme, stemmed and chopped
Juice of 3 limes
2 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

4 plump, fresh cloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 T extra virgin olive oil
2 fresh jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
2 ancho chilies, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 poblano chili, roasted, peeled, stemmed, seeded and coarsely chopped
4 scallions or green onions, coarsely chopped
2 t cumin seeds, roasted and ground (see above)
1 T extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Soak wooden skewers in water for at least one hour.

In a medium bowl, whisk thyme, lime juice, olive oil, salt and black pepper to taste. Arrange the shrimp in a baking dish; cover them well with the lime mixture and marinate, covered and refrigerated, for 1 hour. Turn a couple of times to assure that the shrimp are well coated.

In the meantime in a food processor, pulse the garlic, jalapenos and roasted chilies, scallions, cumin, 1 tablespoon olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste, to make a coarse, but pourable paste. Add the cilantro and pulse some more. Set aside and reserve a small portion of the paste for serving over the shrimp. Place the marinating shrimp on skewers and return to the baking dish and spoon the remaining mixture over the shrimp. Coat shrimp well with the paste and allow to marinate for one hour, turning a couple of times.

Prepare the barbeque grill to medium high heat.

In the interim, bring the shrimp to room temperature. Grill the skewered shrimp for 2 to 3 minutes. Turn to the other side, cover, and grill another 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pinkish opaque and are slightly firm to the touch. Season with salt and pepper to taste, drizzle with reserved paste and serve.


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