leave your inhibitions at the door
Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s shrimp kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That—that’s about it.–Bubba Blue, “Forrest Gump”
You forgot one Bubba–Yucatan Shrimp. Among my favorite newspaper recipes I’ve clipped out in recent years was one last summer for “Yucatan Shrimp.” Plump and tender peel-and-eat shrimp bathed in a sauce of butter with the Indonesian-style chili sauce sambal oelek, garlic, lime juice, and cilantro. And if you’re on a carb diet it, forget it, because you MUST serve this dish with plenty of French bread for sopping up that tangy, spicy, buttery sauce and you will not be able to stop yourself from doing so.
So you may ask yourself, what is Indonesian chili sauce doing in something that’s supposed to originate from Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula? Backing up a bit . . . I clipped the recipe out of the Detroit Free Press (which later named it among its top 5 recipes of 2013), which its food writer shared after having it at Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille in Fort Myer, Florida. I first served the recipe at an end-of-summer dinner party that I blogged about here.
This April, we made our annual pilgrimage during the kids’ spring break to visit my snow-birding parents in Florida. We took a side trip to Sanibel Island for three days, which was pretty and serene and relaxing. As I was researching Sanibel restaurants, up popped Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille (there are three in all with the third on Captiva Island). Doc Ford is apparently the main character in a novel adventure series written by Randy Wayne White that takes place in the surrounding area, and White apparently used some of his proceeds from his novels to open the restaurants. (I picked up his first book at the restaurant, Sanibel Flats, which is next on my reading list.)
Anyway, the menu described the sauce being made with some sort of Central American chili. I don’t know about that, or if they now use the easily available jarred sambal oelek. But no matter–it still rocked.
We enjoyed these with some other appetizers and a flight each of premium rums representing various Caribbean islands. Smooth, smoky sweet, and warming, but wow, I couldn’t really finish all three shots, ya know? Even being on vacation that’s a lot of rum at, like, 5 p.m. on a Tuesday.
Truth be told, my husband thought my version of Yucatan Shrimp was slightly better, and I had to agree. (Thanks to the Detroit Free Press for its adaptation, which I tweaked a little more.) Although shrimp in the shell is superior because the shell keeps them tender and plump, I have also made a less messy version of this with shelled shrimp. If you use shelled, please just don’t overcook them into shriveled little pink half-moons. It’ll ruin the luscious experience. My recommendation is to pull out the wet naps and at least do it peel-and-eat the first time.
Serves: 4 or more
Adapted (with a few of my modifications) from the Detroit Free Press, which it adapted from Doc Ford’s Rum Bar & Grille.
Look for sambal oelek in the Asian section of most grocery stores. I prefer the Huy Fong brand, the same California company that made Sriracha famous here in the U.S.
2 sticks unsalted butter, divided
¼ cup minced garlic
1⁄2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
¼ cup Huy Fong brand sambal oelek
Salt to taste
¾ cup chopped cilantro + 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro (divided)
2 pounds shell-on large shrimp or 1 1/2 pound large shelled shrimp
1 French baguette cut in slices
1. Put a large pot of water on and bring to a boil.
2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt one stick of the butter over low to medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté about 1 minute or until it just begins to brown. Reduce heat slightly and add the remaining 1 stick of butter. Don’t let it melt completely; it should look foamy. Stir in lime juice. Add sambal oelek and ¾ cup cilantro. Taste and salt only if needed; sambal oelek already has a good amount.
3. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook about 3 to 4 minutes, just until the shells are pink and the flesh is opaque. If using shelled shrimp, reduce time by at least one minute … remove from heat as soon as they are pink and opaque all the way through.
4. Drain the shrimp and transfer to a serving bowl. Pour the butter sauce over the shrimp and sprinkle with 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro. Serve with crusty bread slices for dipping.