In Louisiana, different sizes of shrimp are typically used for specific dishes. Small shrimp usually end up in gumbos, stews, or étouffées; medium shrimp are for spicy boils, po’ boys, and frying (but let’s face it, all sizes are good fried). The largest, most beautiful shrimp are saved for special preparations, and they are almost always cooked in the shell. I came up with this simple recipe as an alternative to the more classic barbecued shrimp (made with butter and hot sauce), for a similarly spicy result that doesn’t mask the fresh flavor and texture of the shrimp.
I’ve called for red jalapeños because they are widely available, but my first choice is the fresh paprika chiles that we grow in our garden in New Orleans. If you are ever able to get your hands on them, they are incredible, with a perfect balance of sweetness and heat. If you live in the South, try to grow them—you will never see a plant produce more chiles for a longer season.
What to buy: If you can’t find red jalapeños, green jalapeños or red Fresno chiles are a good substitute.
This dish was featured as part of our Mardi Gras recipe gallery.
- 1In a large bowl, combine the shrimp with 1/2 cup of the olive oil, jalapeños, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper, and lemon juice and toss well to mix. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate the shrimp at room temperature for 20 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 6 hours.
- 2Preheat your oven as high as it will go and arrange a rack in the middle. Place a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for at least 10 minutes so that it gets extremely hot. (My favorite pan to use for this is a thin blue steel pan; they are very cheap and conduct heat really well.) Meanwhile, remove the shrimp from the marinade and discard the marinade. Very carefully remove the hot pan from the oven and gently spread the shrimp across it in one layer—a little crowding is OK. Roast the shrimp until they turn bright pink, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring only once. (Opening the oven too many times will allow too much heat to escape.)
- 3Remove the shrimp from the oven and immediately pour the stock or water over them while still on the baking sheet. Finish with the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and butter; toss to coat evenly. (The heat of the baking sheet should cause the liquids to bubble and reduce slightly. If the pan doesn’t seem quite hot enough, you can transfer the liquid to a saucepan and place it over medium-high heat, allowing the sauce to reduce for a minute or two, then toss with the shrimp.)
- 4Serve the shrimp and sauce with good bread, cold beer, and plenty of napkins.
Recipe provided by Chef Donald Link, author of “Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana.” Adapted with permission from “Real Cajun.”