Since mid-July, the test kitchen has been inundated with tomatoes. Eastern Tennessee had record-breaking temperatures and hardly any rainfall in June, followed by a few weeks of daily afternoon...
I wish things were different, but it’s time to be honest. Mardi Gras—a kind of “release-valve” street carnival and debauch-fest for Catholics before they observe the austere strictures of Lent—means only one thing to me: an excuse to go crazy with a nice dark roux, eat dishes with too much Andouille or tasso (too much being just enough), and buy seafood I normally wouldn’t. This year, my Mardi Gras indulgence took the form of a really nice batch of Seafood Gumbo and this especially awesome rendition of Barbecue Shrimp. Though this shrimp and its butter-beer-garlic pan sauce cannot really compare to stumbling down Bourbon Street sipping a to-go daiquiri strong enough to incapacitate a donkey, I’d like to think the most inebriated reveler would stop and take notice after getting a good whiff of this stuff.
It’s funny: we’ve been testing recipes for quite awhile… everything in the book and more. Somehow, despite all of the dishes on our to-do list (still in the thousands), we have easily convinced each other multiple times that the Barbecue Shrimp recipe requires further testing. Of course, we are always looking for a better way to cook something, but selfishness factors into these tests more than anything. This year’s Barbecue Shrimp “relapse” yielded especially good results for a few reasons:
-We used head-on shrimp. The heads add a lot of flavor to the pan sauce and take only a few more minutes to prep… Some of us love to suck the inside too. Just be sure to trim the antennae and “walking legs” with a pair of scissors before you shell the shrimp (see pictures to the right). If you can only find decapitated shrimp, no worries.
-We seared the shrimp over very high hat in a bit of peanut oil before removing them to a plate. This way, the shrimp get nicely cooked without over-blackening the spices.
-We added a few tablespoons of flour and a few extra spices to blacken in butter. This gave the pan sauce extra oomph in the flavor department (and also just the right thickness from the roux).
-We doubled the amount of butter, beer, and stock to yield more of the delicious pan sauce. This ensured no fighting over once-hotly-contended “dipping rights” (if this occurs, remember that whoever cooked it automatically wins).
So go ahead: if you can’t get to New Orleans, do the next best thing. The combination of shrimp, copious amounts of garlic and butter, deep spicing, beer, lemon, parsley, and crusty bread is perhaps the closest culinary equivalent to a street party.
Laissez les bons temps rouler!
Crusty bread dipped in the sauce is so tasty it’s almost possible to ignore the shrimp. To double the recipe, prepare two batches in separate pans.
Grind in a spice mill or coffee grinder until fine:
2 teaspoon dried rosemary
2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika
2 teaspoon salt
Add 1/3 of this mixture to a large bowl and toss with:
1½ to 2 pounds medium shrimp, heads trimmed (see above) and shelled
Let a large skillet or sauté pan come up to temperature over medium-high heat for five minutes. Add and swish around the pan:
2 tablespoons peanut oil
Add the shrimp in one layer and sear on each side for 2 minutes. Remove to a clean bowl or plate. Reduce the heat to medium and melt in the pan:
1⁄2 cup (1 stick) butter
Add the remaining spice mixture and:
8 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
Cook, stirring, for 4 minutes, or until the spices and flour are a nice dark brown. Add to the pan:
1 cup shrimp stock, fish stock, chicken stock, or more beer
1 12 oz. bottle of beer
Bring to a boil over high heat and let the sauce reduce for 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and return the shrimp to the pan to heat through. Serve with:
¼ cup minced parsley
2 lemons, cut into wedges
Plenty of warm, crusty bread for dipping