Thursday, October 6, 2011

Cilantro and Jalapeño Stuffed Shrimp

Whenever autumn begins and the first rainfall arrives, I go into denial that summer has ended. There's nothing I love more than a sunny summer day and I will spend most of my winter waiting for that first warm day of the spring. Since I can't control the weather, I tried to convince my self it's still warm out (which it's not) by cooking a light, fresh dinner. Don't worry, once the weather really cools down I will be eating all sorts of warm comfort foods, but for the time being, I'm still enjoying the flavors of summer. Last night I made these stuffed shrimp and absolutely loved them. The refreshing blend of cilantro, jalapeños, and jumbo shrimp came together to make the perfect last meal of summer. I'm pretty sure after this morning's gray skies and never ending rain showers I will be wanting something warm and fatty for dinner tonight (German bratwurst anyone?).

In the original recipe, 8 shrimp are served as an appetizer for 4 people, but my mom and I ate that amount for dinner between the 2 of us (embarrassing, I know). In my grocery store there are different sized jumbo shrimp, so check the weight at the fish counter since the amount of stuffing and marinade is intended for 1 1/4 pounds of shrimp. If you stick with 8 shrimp but opt for the smaller variety of jumbo shrimp, you can cut back on the amount of filling.

The recipe is surprisingly easy to put together with the help of a food processor and looks beautiful too. I don't suggest preparing any part of this ahead of time since the shrimp will begin to cook in the lime juice marinade if you allow them to soak too long, which will then mess with the cooking time and make stuffing them more difficult. I didn't feel like the thyme added to the flavor of the dish, so if you have it, throw it in, but otherwise don't worry about it. Keeping the shrimp in the shell is meant to intensify its flavor, but if you're serving this to guests and are worried about people getting messy, you can remove it either before or after cooking. Stuffing the shrimp is easier than it looks, and the filling stays put really well during the cooking process. You can either grill the shrimp or fry them with a tiny bit of oil, the end result will be excellent either way.

Recipe from Food Network Kitchens
Serves 4 as an appetizer

8 jumbo shrimp, in the shell (about 1 1/4 pounds)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped (optional)
juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons olive oil (plus a little extra if frying)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
pinch of pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 large jalapeño, with seeds
2 whole scallions
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Begin by cutting 3/4 of the way through the ridged back of the shrimp, removing the vein that runs down the center. Rinse and pat the shrimp dry. To make the marinade, whisk together the thyme, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper. Pour marinade into a shallow, nonreactive bowl and lay the shrimp cut side down in the mixture. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat your grill to medium high at this point if you're grilling. In a food processor, combine the remaining tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, garlic, jalapeño and scallions. Pulse until it turns into a coarse paste. Add the cilantro and pulse until it is finely chopped. and incorporated into the mixtures. Spoon the mixture into the shrimp and close the shrimp once filled. If using a pan, heat a little bit of oil in a pan over medium high heat.

Cook the shrimp shell side down for 3 minutes on one side. Turn them over and cook on the other side for 2 minutes (if using a grill, cover it for the last 2 minutes). If your shrimp are smaller they will require less time. Cook until just opaque, keeping in mind that the shrimp will continue to cook off the heat.

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