Roasted, grilled or fried? Come on, shrimp is so outrageously tasty and versatile ingredient that I can hardly believe those who doesn’t like it. Not to mention that it is a source of lean protein and an excellent source of iron, niacin, and phosphorus. But even the shrimp haters will enjoy this “Mediterranean shrimp” recipe. I promise.
Apart from all that tastiness and healthiness, I find shrimp rather intriguing, if not a challenging, ingredient to handle. A cooked-to- perfection shrimp should be succulent enough so that it is bouncy in texture but not mushy (so gross!) and firm with a slight hint of a crunch that should not approach chewy texture (so sad!). Gosh! It does sound like “kitchen rocket science”.
As far as the taste is concerned, this is a whole new ball game. Two words: bland taste. Raise your hand if you have ever tasted shrimp with no taste. Or even worse with chalky, metallic taste that makes me furious and I really want to force-feed the chef/cooker with that hideous crap every single time.
I guess the bottom line is that cooking shrimp is all about the balance between taste and texture. A combination well-known and cultivated for centuries by people of the Mediterranean countries. Harvesting, processing, and consumption of seafood are ancient practices around the Mediterranean Basin and people living in coastal areas know how to cook heavenly these sea gems provided in abundance by nature. That’s why fish/seafood is a staple of the Mediterranean diet and advised to be consumed at least twice per week.
Furthermore, this post is about clever healthy cooking as well. It is a two prep stage recipe: we start with a paste from Mediterranean herbs like rosemary, parsley, thyme mixed with a generous amount of garlic and olive oil. This paste is the secret behind the unique taste of this recipe. You let aside for as long as you can and give time to all these magnificent herbs to infuse their aromas to the olive oil. The final step is to strain, keep the infused olive oil and make a paste with the rest of the mixture.
The second stage will take this recipe to the top level by adding sweetness from honey and another tasteful layer with lemon juice. Once again, we seek culinary balance: earthy flavor from herbs, sweetness from honey triggered by the sourness lemon juice.
The size of shrimp doesn’t really matter but obviously the smaller the shrimp the shorter the cooking time. Fresh shrimp is my first choice but I cannot always find it and I purchase frozen one instead. However, I am selective and I always check the labels for “I.Q.F.,” which stand for individually quick frozen, for FAO 37, which stand for the Mediterranean fishing area and whether the shrimp is farmed or wild. Finally, I would like to buy shrimp in the shell because it protects better the product and peeled shrimp is probable to have been treated with chemical preservatives. I know, it is so time-consuming to unpeel shrimps, especially the tinny ones but I personally think that it’s worth the trouble.
I lightly pan-sauté the shrimp for a few minutes with no addition of extra oil. Only the infused one. I believe that this procedure gives a more succulent outcome because it doesn’t allow the juices exuded by the shrimp to escape. Even better, cook it in that herb-honey paste with olive oil as liquid creates a mouth-watering sauce that simply cannot get enough of it. Ever!
Boil the pasta as always and add it immediately into the pan using a fork or tongs to grip and lift pasta right in the shrimp pan. This way adds more liquid to shrimp sauce and binds perfectly everything together.
I usually don’t devein small or small/medium size shrimp because it takes forever and I hate crushing the poor things. However, I believe it is necessary for medium/large ones because it tastes funny and somehow gives a bitter aftertaste. Nevertheless, you may leave shrimp unpeeled which is a good idea especially if you are up for an appetizer dish. It is more difficult to eat and far messier but the shells are packed with so much flavor and maybe you should take it into account. I would recommend leaving the tail on because it is easy to remove and gives a certain better look to the shrimp.
It could be a perfect appetizer served on its own sauce, right from the pan (why not? Avoid burning yourself or your guests, though) or you may offer the ultimate main dish served with pasta, rice, orzo, vegetables, whatever you want.
- 2 pounds medium/large shrimp, deveined (optional), peeled (optional), tail end left on (31/35 count)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 10 small cloves garlic, green germ removed, cut in half
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary or 1 tablespoon dried
- 1 cup minced parsley leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried coriander leaves or fresh (optional)
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 lemon juice and zest
- 1 teaspoon ground sweet paprika
- 1 tablespoon mild mustard
- Salt and pepper
- In a pan add olive oil, garlic, rosemary, parsley, coriander over moderate heat until olive oil is well heated for 5-6 minutes but don’t let the olive reach smoking point. Set aside and let herb- spice infused olive oil cool for as long as you can. Strain using a fine-mesh sieve and funnel oil into a small bowl. Add the rest in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
- In a small bowl mix well honey, lemon juice and zest, paprika and mustard.
- Devein and/or unpeel shrimp (optional). Leave tail on.
- In a large skillet pan heat, the herb-spice infused olive oil and add shrimp for 1-2 minutes until it changes color and turn the other side. Add the herb-spice paste and stir well for 1 minute. Toss the honey-lemon paste to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Stir quickly to thicken no more than 2 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Prepare pasta according to package directions. Use a fork or tongs to grip and lift pasta right in the skillet pan.
- Toss to mix. Allow everything to get hot, then serve.
Adapted from here. Thank you for this great recipe!