Now that we've had a stretch of sizzling weather, it's time to sizzle some shrimp -- or, as we say in Baltimore, "shrimps" -- on the grill.
Even though you can cook them in almost any season, I prefer to wait until it is "barefoot weather" to start grilling my "shrimps." That is because I associate grilled shrimp with spending a week at the beach; a stretch of time when footwear and most outwear is minimal.
I won't be bound for the beach for several weeks, but the recent stretch of hot weather got me thinking about the ocean, kicking off my shoes and grilling some shrimps. There are several tricks to this endeavor. The first is you don't want to cook the shrimp too long, no more than 3 minutes a side. As the name "shrimp" implies, their bodies are not very big. They dry out quickly, especially over a hot fire.
The second trick is that unless you are talking about amazingly fresh shrimp, fellows that were swimming a few hours before they landed on the grill, they need to be marinated. In my experience, the delicate, briny flavor of a fresh shrimp gets lost when the critter has either been frozen or spent much time out of the water. Much of the shrimp found in the market today falls into one of those categories. It is still good, but it doesn't have that fresh-from-the-water tang. To help it along, I drop the shrimp in a marinade and let it swim in flavored liquid for an hour or two before ploppin' it on the grill.
The third trick is successful skewering. To cook them evenly, shrimps should be threaded on skewers. The theory is that after you cook one side of the skewered shrimp you can flip over the skewer and finish cooking the other side.
The truth is that the shrimps don't cooperate. For some reason or another, they don't cotton to being skewered. As a matter of fact, they fight it. I have flipped over countless skewers of shrimp, only to see the shrimp do a "360" and rotate on the skewer. No matter how many times I flip the skewer, the same side of the shrimp ends up close to the fire. It is humiliating being outfoxed by tiny, brain-free shellfish, but it happens.
But the other day I found a recipe that uses a new tactic for keeping the "shrimps" from rolling. The recipe calls for soaking the shrimp in a bath of lemon juice, hot sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, soy and honey.
The tactic calls for skewering each shrimp twice, once in the head and once in the tail. When they are pinned with these parallel skewers, those slippery shrimps can't roll over and outfox you. You are barefoot, you feel brainy, and you have one tasty batch of shrimps for supper.
Lemon Chili Shrimp
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 tablespoon Chinese hot chili sauce
1 tablespoon grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
20 raw, unpeeled large shrimp
In a large bowl, combine lemon juice, chili sauce, ginger, garlic, cilantro, soy sauce and honey. Add shrimp; toss in liquid until coated evenly. Thread 5 shrimp on parallel skewers. Repeat with remaining shrimp and skewers. Cover with plastic and refrigerate for 20 minutes. Grill over medium-hot fire until the shell is pink and flesh is opaque, about 3 minutes per side.
-- From "Grilling" by Eric Treuille and Birgit Erath (DK Publishing, 2000)