Season’s start is time to break out the grill

Grilled shrimp is a summertime favorite dish. BY JACK CLEMONS
May 27, 2013

The countdown to summer’s official start has begun, and we’re looking forward to Memorial Day celebrations to launch the new season. Since the formal reason for the holiday is honoring the men and women who have died in service to our country, many will place flags on veterans’ graves or listen to the annual evening concert held on the lawn of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. (broadcast on PBS if you can’t attend).

On an informal note, this is also the weekend some of us will break out the barbecue grill for its inaugural service of the year (except for those of you who never put it away at the end of last summer). For me, the prospect of opening the grill is daunting because I don’t remember cleaning the grate before tucking it in for the winter.

Fortunately, our friend Tim Hall described how to make a delicious and terrifically simple shrimp dish that didn’t demand the grill be cleaned in advance. He started with fresh shrimp, arranged them on a piece of aluminum foil, liberally sprinkled Old Bay, tossed in some lemon slices and (here’s the key) three or four ice cubes. The packet is tightly sealed and placed on the grill. After about 10 minutes you can enjoy spicy steamed shrimp.

Eager to try his technique, I remembered we had two bags of shrimp in the freezer and realized the moisture frozen in their flesh might work as an alternative to the ice cubes Tim used to steam the fresh shrimp. I then wondered if I defrosted the shrimp, could I use other liquid instead of melted ice. I also made the two batches different by leaving the shells on one set and peeling the shells from the other set.

In both cases, I made sure to keep them in a single layer in the foil packet to avoid uneven heating, and I set the grill on medium high for the correct steaming effect without overcooking. By the way, I hadn’t cleaned the grate, which smoked from the charred leftovers still stuck to the metal and then billowed steam as the shrimp cooked to an ideal pink.

Jack and I ate the experiment for lunch that day, comparing the taste and texture differences between the two approaches. Both batches were the same - bold lemon, bright spice and perfectly tender – with one exception: eating the peeled shrimp was much easier. We were now set for one of our weekend meals; the only choice left to make was whether the preparation or the consumption would be simple.

Because of their versatility and how readily they absorb flavor, shrimp are extremely popular. You can find frozen shrimp already deveined or fresh shrimp not yet deveined. Although the vein isn’t a problem if the shrimp is properly cooked, it’s best removed if only for aesthetic reasons. Split the shrimp up the back with a sharp paring knife and slide the knife tip under the vein and pull it out. The other advantage to this opening in the shell is that you’ve created a pathway to introduce flavor to the shrimp flesh.

There are a few caveats about buying shrimp. Some labeled as “fresh” may also have the words “previously frozen” in the fine print. If they have been defrosted, don’t refreeze them. If the shrimp smells of ammonia, it’s gone bad; don’t even consider eating it. If shrimp has a slight iodine smell, it’s most likely from the plankton in their diet. You can eliminate the smell by mixing two tablespoons of baking soda with a quart of water and soaking the shrimp for 10 minutes. Be sure to rinse the shrimp thoroughly before cooking.

For those of you who don’t consider foil-wrapped packets legitimate grilling, you can barbecue shrimp on skewers. Either thread them through the top and the tail into a curve on a single skewer or thread them across two skewers to keep them from spinning when you try turning them. And don’t pack them too closely together or you’ll find some overdone while others remain gray and raw. You’ll know they’re ready when they reach a uniform pink color.
I’ve included specific instructions on the Tim Hall ice cube technique and the start-with-frozen-shrimp method as well as a rosemary marinade recipe for skewered shrimp. No matter how you salute the start of summer, enjoy a happy Memorial Day.

Tim Hall’s Grilled Shrimp

1 lb fresh shrimp
1 1/2 t Old Bay seasoning (or to taste)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 sliced lemon
2 t butter, crumbled
3 ice cubes
lemon wedges

Preheat grill to medium. Devein shrimp; do not remove shells. Place shrimp on a large piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with seasonings. Arrange lemon slices over shrimp and scatter butter bits. Place ice cubes on top and tightly seal the foil packet. Grill with the seam side up until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Grilled Frozen Shrimp

1 lb frozen deveined shrimp
1 1/2 t Old Bay seasoning (or to taste)
1 sliced lemon
1 t lemon juice
snipped chives

Preheat grill to medium. Do not defrost shrimp. Arrange shrimp in a single layer on a large piece of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with Old Bay. Arrange lemon slices over shrimp and drizzle with lemon juice. Tightly seal the foil packet. Grill with the seam side up until shrimp are barely cooked through, about 10 to 12 minutes. Garnish with snipped chives.

Skewered Shrimp

16 jumbo shrimp
1/4 C minced garlic
1 t Kosher salt
2 T finely chopped fresh rosemary
3 T olive oil
lemon wedges

Peel and devein the shrimp; set aside. Create a paste by mashing garlic into salt in a mixing bowl large enough to hold the shrimp. Add rosemary, 3 T olive oil and shrimp. Toss to coat shrimp and cover. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours. Preheat grill to medium. Thread shrimp onto skewers. Cook, turning once, until uniformly pink, about 4 minutes each side. Serve with lemon wedges.