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Spicy Yucatan Shrimp


Is it still cold where you live?  Are you frustrated by on-going dreary weather?  Do you need a tiny food celebration to lift your spirits for any reason?  Yucatan Shrimp is the recipe for you.  This is a bright and spicy, peel-and-eat shrimp dish that will put a little bounce in your step.  There’s something festive about messy finger food, especially when it’s seafood.  If you’re looking for some festive seafood, with less mess, you could try these clams instead.

I found this shrimp recipe on the New York Times Cooking website, although I made a few changes.  The basic methodology is to poach the shrimp, shell-on, and then to toss them with a flavorful lime-chili butter sauce, and dig in.  I chose to roast my shrimp; not only is the easier and less mess than boiling them in a big pot of water, the shrimp are much more flavorful.  The most time consuming part of this recipe is de-veining the shrimp; it is a bit tedious to do, especially when you want to leave the shell intact.  I recommend using a sharp paring knife, and doing this first.  The rest of the meal will come together very quickly.  If you don’t mind running across a mud vein in your shrimp, you can skip the deveining process.

My goal was for these little shrimp to pack some legitimate heat.  I chose to make some pretty significant increases in the quantities of chilies, relative to the original recipe.  I was making this for someone who likes a very spicy meal, but the heat level is flexible.  I have written the recipe below with ranges of each spicy ingredient, which are sambel olek (an Indonesian chile paste you can find at most grocery stores), and jalapeno.  If you don’t want the feel the burn, simply choose the smaller quantity of sambel olek, and you can skip the jalapeno entirely.  If you want a little more heat, keep the jalapeno, but remove the seeds and membranes.  You could also use sriracha instead of sambel olek; that won’t impact heat, but it is a bit easier to find.  It’s a very flexible recipe.  I recommend serving this big bowl of buttery shrimp with some crusty bread and cold beer.  You will feel like you are on vacation in your very own kitchen.

Yucatan Shrimp (adapted from New York Times Cooking)

Serves 4 normal people, or 2 big appetites

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced
  • Juice of two large limes
  • 1-2 tablespoon Indonesian sambal (preferably sambal oelek, by Huy Fong, though sriracha will work as well)
  • Kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 pound large, fresh, shell-on shrimp
  • 1/2 jalapeño, minced (optional or seed it for less heat)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Devein shrimp, and chop all ingredients.
  2. On a large sheet pan covered in foil, toss shrimp with olive oil and salt and pepper.  Set aside.
  3. In a small saucepan set over low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the garlic and cook, stirring for 2 minutes.
  4. Add remaining 3 tablespoons butter to saucepan. When it melts, stir in the lime juice, chili sauce, jalapeno, salt and pepper. Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to rest.
  5. Put shrimp in oven for about 4 minutes.  Remove from oven, turn shrimp over, and return shrimp to oven for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until they the shells are pink, and the backs of the shrimp look opaque.
  6. In a large bowl, toss the shrimp and chili sauce. Sprinkle with cilanto, toss again, and serve with bread for the remaining sauce.


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