Midwestern winters feel so gray that I seek remedies to brighten the day. A long phone call with my sister in sunny New Mexico, arranging the beach vacation photos, turning up the music—all help. My kitchen therapies involve fresh herbs. The bounty from my indoor hydroponic garden (or the produce section) just tastes like summer. A person can dream.
Shrimp, piled high with fresh herbs, brightened with lemon, and arranged prettily on thin skewers just implores diners to smile. Around here, the cook grins from the ease of the preparation and the tasty rewards.
Don’t lose the motivation to cook shrimp when you see the prices. Instead, purchase frozen shrimp when it’s on sale. Know that most shrimp in the fish case has been previously frozen and thawed for convenience. The same thing we can all do at home. Frozen shrimp will keep in the coldest section of your freezer for a couple of months. To retain maximum flavor and moisture, thaw shrimp overnight (set the bag in a bowl to catch drips) in the refrigerator.
The key to responsible shrimp purchases? Know the store, trust their sources. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, a global leader in the sustainable seafood movement, suggests purchasing shrimp certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, or most U.S. wild-caught and some imported wild-caught shrimp as well as responsibly farmed shrimp from various locations around the globe. I look for the responsibly farmed logo when shopping at Whole Foods. Their Mexican white shrimp and Pacific white shrimp taste great in the recipe that follows.
Shrimp size matters most when it comes to price. Generally, the smaller the shrimp, the less expensive. For skewers, the shrimp graded 26 to 30 pieces per pound makes for pleasant eating and quick cooking.
Firing up the grill on a cold, dry day practically begs the sun to shine. Keep the grill cooking times short on frigid days or opt for the broiler. For easy grilling or broiling, skewer the shrimp with double-pronged metal kebab skewers or flat-bladed metal skewers to keep the food from flopping around when turned. Alternatively, soak bamboo skewers for a half hour or so in water before using; this helps prevent scorching of the skewer during cooking. Then, use two bamboo skewers for each kebab to firmly hold the shrimp in place while cooking.
Of course, you can skip the skewers and simply cook the shrimp on a perforated grill pan set directly over the heat source. If using the broiler, put the shrimp in a single layer on a baking sheet and position it 6 to 8 inches from the broiler heat source. Stir several times during the cooking.
Serve the shrimp skewers with pasta strewn with blanched broccoli, basil oil, and fresh basil leaves. Tuck any leftover fresh mint leaves into sparkling water. Sunshine is near, I swear.
Herbed Lemon Shrimp Skewers
Makes 6 servings
- 1 large lemon
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large or 2 small shallots, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint leaves
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 pounds peeled, deveined shrimp, 26 to 30 count per pound
- Vegetable cooking spray
- Lemon slices, fresh herb sprigs for garnish
Use a Microplane zester-grater to finely grate the lemon rind (yellow portion only) into a bowl. (Alternatively, remove the yellow portion of the lemon rind with a vegetable peeler and mince it very finely.) Cut the lemon in half, remove seeds with the tip of a knife and squeeze juice into the bowl. Stir in oil, shallots, garlic, dill, and mint. Season with salt and pepper.
Pat shrimp dry. Skewer shrimp onto 6 skewers using about 8 shrimp per skewer. Try to keep shrimp flat while skewering. Place skewers in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet or platter. Spoon lemon and oil mixture over the shrimp, turning to coat them on all sides. Leave at room temperature while you prepare the grill or refrigerate covered for several hours.
Prepare a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to medium-high (grill temperature should be about 375 degrees F). Heat the grill cooking grate for at least 5 minutes.
Spray shrimp with vegetable cooking spray. Place skewers (along with any marinade that clings to shrimp) directly over heat on grill. Cover grill and cook without turning for 3 minutes. Flip skewers. Cover grill and cook until shrimp turn pink and nearly firm when pressed, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes more.
Remove skewers to a serving platter. Serve hot or at room temperature garnished with lemon slices and fresh herb sprigs.
For broiled shrimp, broil skewers on a perforated broiler pan, turning every minute until pink and nearly firm when pressed, 3 to 4 minutes. Or, mix shrimp with lemon and oil mixture in a bowl to coat well. Arrange shrimp in a single, uncrowded layer on a rimmed sheet pan. Preheat the broiler to medium-high. Broil shrimp, 6 to 8 inches from heat source, stirring every minute, 3 to 4 minutes.