20 minutes prep, 5 minutes cooking, 25 minutes total
Photo: Mette Nielsen
If there is one recipe in this book guaranteed to have your family moaning with gratitude, this is it. After eating these shrimp a five-year-old has been known to say, "Wow, Mom, thanks!" And they've driven a grown woman to shamelessly lick her plate -- in front of everyone. Our only caution is follow the directions to the letter. There is a fine line between caramelization and cremation.
Cook to Cook: Frozen shrimp are called for as a convenience. Certainly you could use fresh or thawed. If you do, use cold water instead of warm and marinate the shrimp in the refrigerator.
One-third cup of chile powder is not an error. In a brine you need this much to end up with a subtle boost of flavors. Try it once, then tell us we are crazy.
Cook and eat immediately.
1/2 cup salt (Kosher or sea salt -- not iodized)
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup medium-hot chile powder
2 quarts warm water
1-1/2 pounds large frozen shrimp (in out or out of their shells; organic if possible)
4 tablespoons expeller pressed canola, or other mild oil
4 large garlic cloves
4-inch piece ginger, peeled
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon fresh-ground black pepper
Salt to taste
4 teaspoons sugar
1. In a medium stainless or glass bowl, blend the salt, sugar, and chile powder in the warm water. Drop in the shrimp, and let stand at room temperature 20 minutes while you set up the rest of the meal.
2. Drain the shrimp, peel off their shells if necessary, and pat the shrimp dry. Chop the garlic and ginger together into 1/8-inch pieces. Heat the oil in a straight-sided 12-inch sauté pan over medium high. Stir in the garlic, ginger, pepper, and a sprinkle of salt. Cook for 1 minute, stirring with a wooden spatula. Blend in the sugar, and keep stirring until the garlic is pale gold. Do not let the pieces get dark brown.
3. Immediately drop in the shrimp and stir another 1 to 2 minutes, or until shrimp are turning pink and are barely firm. Turn the shrimp into a serving bowl. Taste them for seasoning, adjust, and serve hot or warm.
Variation: Shrimp Stir-Fry with Chickpeas and Greens
Follow the recipe for brining and drying the shrimp as directed above.
Substitute for the garlic and ginger: 1 medium onion, 2 sweet yellow peppers, 2 seeded jalapeño or serrano chilies, and 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata olives. Rough chop together into 1/4-inch pieces.
Using 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil instead of canola oil, stir-fry the shrimp. When just firm, spoon them from the pan to a large serving bowl.
Swirl a little more olive oil into the pan, add a can of rinsed and drained chickpeas, the chopped vegetables, and a couple handfuls of salad greens. Stir-fry over high heat 1 to 2 minutes, seasoning the vegetables to taste as you cook.
Once they are tender crisp, add them to the shrimp and serve. This is excellent over No-Cook Whole Wheat Couscous, or tossed with pasta.
Lynne Rossetto Kasper has won numerous awards as host of The Splendid Table, including two James Beard Foundation Awards (1998, 2008) for Best National Radio Show on Food, five Clarion Awards (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014) from Women in Communication, and a Gracie Allen Award in 2000 for Best Syndicated Talk Show.
Sally Swift is the managing producer and co-creator of The Splendid Table. Before developing the show, she worked in film, video and television, including stints at Twin Cities Public Television, Paisley Park, and Comic Relief with Billy Crystal. She also survived a stint as segment producer on The Jenny Jones Show.