Grilling is hands down my favorite way to cook shrimp, but it becomes less enjoyable on an icy evening. That’s when I turn to a technique similar to the one used to make Golden Onion and Potato Frittata: start the meal on the stovetop and then slide it under the broiler to finish.
Prepared this way, shrimp pick up the flavor of a pan sear yet capture heat from above too, creating a fully cooked, juicy center. The brief salting time helps lock in moisture so that the shrimp are less likely to become dry and rubbery. Thin slices of garlic, rather than minced, become a crisp, caramelized garnish. The dish is so simple that it can showcase dried Home-Smoked Chili Peppers if you like a hint of heat.
The oil becomes infused with that garlic and chili flavor, making it ideal for dipping or drizzling. You can serve these shrimp in so many ways, from a tapas-style appetizer, with a side of crusty bread for soaking up the extra oil, to a main over couscous, rice or vegetables, with the hot oil drizzled over the top. You can even pile the shrimp on that potato frittata.
Be sure to choose raw shrimp for this recipe; precooked ones will be decidedly rubbery. I prefer shrimp large enough that they can show off their seared edges—always removing their shells myself so that I can turn them into stock later. A large skillet helps when searing. If the shrimp would be so crowded that you can’t see the skillet’s bottom, split the recipe between two pans.
Seared Shrimp in Garlic Oil
1-1/2 pounds raw shrimp
3/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried chilies (optional)
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 lemon, cut in wedges
Pinch of dried basil
Defrost the shrimp under cold running water if frozen, and then remove the shells. Sprinkle the salt on the shrimp; set them in the refrigerator to brine for about 15 minutes. Place an oven rack as close to the broiler as possible and heat on low. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, paprika, chilies if using and black pepper to taste; set aside.
In a large, broad cast iron or other ovenproof skillet, warm the oil over low heat (the oil should cover the bottom of the skillet). Add the garlic and cook for two to three minutes, until golden. Increase the heat to medium high. Add the shrimp, and then stir in the spices. Immediately place the skillet under the broiler; cook, shaking the skillet once or twice and stirring as needed to prevent overbrowning, for about five minutes, until the shrimp are pink and the mixture is bubbly.
Carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and squeeze a wedge or two of lemon over the dish. Sprinkle with basil and serve with additional lemon wedges.
Julie Laing is a Bigfork-based cookbook author and food blogger at TwiceAsTasty.com.
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