Head-On Gulf Shrimp With Nam Jim Sauce

Head-On Gulf Shrimp With Nam Jim Sauce
Grilled jumbo Gulf shrimp with nam jim, a sweet-sour-spicy Thai dipping sauce, reflects Caitlin Carney and Marcus Jacob's Mekong Delta-meets-Louisiana culinary sensibilities. (Andrea Behrends and Helene Dujardin)

Head-On Gulf Shrimp With Nam Jim Sauce

Perfectly grilled shrimp is difficult to master. The tender, delicate meat cooks so quickly that it often becomes overcooked and tough. But not these little guys. Marcus’s technique of leaving the heads and tails on allows him to cook them gently up to temperature—while still getting a bit of char and plenty of great, smoky grilled flavor. Paired with the acidic and spicy nam jim sauce, this is a fantastic dish to serve as an appetizer, or with some hearty sides to round out a main.

Serves 2 to 4 as an appetizer

Hands-on Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

For the nam jim sauce:
  • 4 jalapeño chiles
  • 1 head garlic
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce, preferably Tiparos brand
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons cane syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
For the shrimp:
  • 1 1/2 pounds jumbo (21/25 count) whole Gulf shrimp (heads and tails still on), peeled
  • Vegetable oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
Open the bottom vent of a charcoal grill completely. Light a charcoal chimney starter filled with charcoal. When the coals are covered with gray ash, pour them onto the bottom grate of the grill, and then push to one side of the grill. Adjust the vents as needed to maintain an internal temperature of 400 degrees to 450 degrees F. Coat the top grate with oil; place on the grill. (If using a gas grill, preheat to medium-high (400 degrees to 450 degrees F) on one side.)
For the sauce: Grill the jalapeños and garlic over direct heat, uncovered, charring their skins entirely on all sides, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a heavy-duty ziplock freezer bag and let cool. Remove and discard the skins from the jalapeños, cut in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Place the peppers in a food processor.
Remove the outer skin from the garlic and peel the cloves, adding 10–12 cloves to the pepper mixture (set aside any remaining cloves for another use). Add the remaining sauce ingredients to the processor and pulse until the mixture just comes together. Some pepper and garlic chunks will remain.
For the shrimp: Thread 5 or 6 shrimp onto two skewers—one skewer near the heads and the other near the tails. Repeat to skewer all the shrimp. Lightly coat the shrimp with vegetable oil and season lightly on both sides with salt and pepper.
Grill the shrimp over direct heat, uncovered, for 3 minutes on one side. Flip the shrimp and grill for an additional 2 minutes—the shrimp should be slightly charred and opaque. Remove the shrimp from the grill and slide them off the skewers. Serve with the nam jim sauce on the side.
Caitlin Carney and Marcus Jacob of Marjie's Grill in New Orleans, La. (Photo from the book "Serial Griller")
Caitlin Carney and Marcus Jacob of Marjie's Grill in New Orleans, La. (Photo from the book "Serial Griller")
Recipe excerpted from "Serial Griller: Grillmaster Secrets for Flame-Cooked Perfection," copyright 2020 by Matt Moore. Photography copyright 2020 by Andrea Behrends and Helene Dujardin. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.  
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