Sometimes, in my kitchen, at our friends’ home using their grill, and in the food blogging world, things just don’t go as planned. Recipes go horribly awry; pictures turn out blurry; fluorescent lighting makes food appear greenish, blueish or just plain blah.
Or the incredibly simple but WOW shrimp recipe I’ve loved and made for years – with Beautiful Grill Marks Every Single Time – ends up having Zero Grill Marks, Whatsoever the one time I finally remembered to take photographs.
Thankfully, despite a few snafus during the cooking process, the shrimp still tasted pretty freakin’ great.
Snafus?? Well, let’s just say that, if a man walking around in an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat offers to grill the shrimp you’ve so carefully and beautifully marinated … okay, fine; the marinade only takes 5 minutes to put together, so maybe you mostly spent the 1-hour marination period following the brief prep period drinking generous glassfuls of wine and chatting away with the Dreamcoat-wearer’s future wife.
Anyway, the take-away is not to let those shrimp out of your sight, even (especially?) if they’re under the protection of a guy flaunting a super awesome Dreamcoat. I mean, grilling shrimp isn’t rocket science, as long as a few, very easy details are attended to.
First, make sure that grill is HOT. Just because you grilled a giant steak on it 15 minutes ago doesn’t mean it’s still hot. Also, you probably cooked that huge slab of cow at a temperature more along the lines of medium-hot (if not, it’s probably either utterly black on the outside or completely raw in the middle). So test the temperature by placing one hand, palm down, just an inch above the grill; if your hand recoils after 1-2 seconds, the grill is truly hot and ready to go.
Why put your delicate hands at risk? Every grill is different. Some heat up immediately; others take an hour. Some have temperature dials; charcoal grills (my favorite) don’t. Even those with temperature dials have different standards for what is low, medium, and high heat. The only way to get consistent results when cooking on new, different, or inconsistent (::ahem:: communal barbecues in our apartment complex) grills is with this hand test. Bobby Flay said so.
Second, if you’re using a fancy new propane grill or even an old rustic one, make sure there is propane in the tank, preferably before you start. But if you let the barbecue heat up for 30 minutes, forget about it for another 45 minutes, then remember the plan was barbecued foods – not just beer – for dinner and throw the aforementioned large hunk of red meat on the grill for 30 minutes … maybe make sure the tank is not just “not totally empty,” but is actually “pretty full” to start. Maybe also check the temperature and/or tank again after the red meat is done, just to be safe.
Otherwise, the poor shrimp, which need only 3 minutes max to cook on a hot grill, will not get grill marks. They won’t even cook. Fundamentals, people!
Finally, if your grill is super hot and you haven’t run out of propane, don’t get flip-happy or move whatever-you’re-grilling around constantly. Let it be, and flip it only once if you want it to sear properly on the outside and develop beautiful grill marks – both of which keep whatever-you’re-grilling from sticking to the grill.
On the other hand, if the shrimp haven’t turned remotely pink after 5 minutes on the grill, you’ve probably run out of propane, in which case you should try to salvage them by sauteing them in a bit of olive oil on the stove. And hey – it worked!
I mean, could you honestly concentrate on grilling shrimp if you were walking around in an Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat? I can’t say that I could.
Grilled Herbed Shrimp (Adapted from Ina Garten)
Serves 6 with side dishes
Ina adds dry mustard to her marinade, but I never seem to have that on hand. Instead, I always add just a bit more Dijon mustard to the mix, and have never been disappointed with the outcome. I’ve also made this with just parsley, just basil, or even a combination of cilantro and the other herbs, also with good results.
Note: Leave tails on when peeling the shrimp for easier skewering.
2 lbs. large shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled and deveined (see Note, above)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium yellow onion, small-diced
1/4 c. minced fresh parsley
1/4 c. minced fresh basil
1 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
Stir together all the ingredients (except shrimp) until well combined. Add shrimp, and toss until well coated. Let marinate for 1 hour at room temperature, or cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Skewer the shrimp (about 3 to 4 shrimp on a 12-inch skewer). Heat a barbecue to high heat (to ensure proper temperature, place hand 1 inch above grill; if your hand recoils after 1-2 seconds, the grill is ready). Grill shrimp until pink, about 1 1/2 minutes per side.
Serve with rice pilaf and grilled vegetables (e.g. chopped zucchini, yellow summer squash, mushrooms and tomatoes – cook in a metal pan placed directly on the grill, about 5 to 10 minutes depending on the size you cut them).