One of my favorite dishes to order along the Mexican Caribbean is Camarones Al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp) – big, sweet, freshly-caught shrimp simply sautéed in butter and garlic. When my dear wife found a deal on large grill-cut shrimp (deveined and butterflied with the legs trimmed off), I knew I had to come up with a version of this for the grill.
Because I knew my rendition could end up on the decadent side, I paired it with a light salad that makes good use of the tasty melons that are in season now.
2 pounds large, grill-cut shrimp
8 cups hot water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 tablespoons raw or brown sugar
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons Chesapeake Bay Seasoning
4 cups ice
Combine the hot water, salt, sugar, lemon juice, garlic, and Bay seasoning in a large bowl and stir to dissolve the salt and sugar. Add the ice and stir to cool the brine. Add the shrimp, stir, and move the whole works to the fridge for an hour.
While the shrimp are brining, put the sauce and salad together.
Spinach & Melon Salad
2 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Salt and pepper to taste
1 (6-ounce) package fresh baby spinach
2 cups melon, cubed or balled (honeydew in this case)
1/2 cup red onion, thinly sliced
Whisk together the honey, vinegar, oil, and juices in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stash in the fridge until you are ready to serve.
To serve, toss the spinach, melon, and onion together in a large bowl. Toss with three-quarters of the dressing and serve with the remainder for drizzling.
Garlic Butter Sauce
8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Juice of 1 lemon, about 3 tablespoons
1 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
1 teaspoon fresh herbs, minced (take your pick – thyme, chives, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary are all good here)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. Cook until it stops foaming, about 2 minutes.
Add the olive oil, garlic, salt, herbs, and pepper. Cook another 2 minutes until you can really start to smell the garlic. Remove the pan from the heat and add the lemon juice.
Stash someplace warm while you heat up the grill and fish the shrimp out of the brine.
Set your grill up for a direct cook over medium-high (400°F) heat.
Drain the shrimp into a colander. Make sure the garlic sauce is just barely warm enough to be liquid, but not hot enough to cook the shrimp. One by one, grab the shrimp by their tails and dip them in the sauce. Lay the dipped shrimp out on a cookie sheet just like you’re making chocolate-dipped strawberries.
If you are feeling extra naughty, toss the shrimp back in the fridge for 20 minutes and dip them again. If not, save what’s left of the garlic sauce for serving at the table and move the shrimp to the grill.
Place the shrimp on the grate, close the lid to avoid flare-ups from the butter, and grill for 2 minutes. Try to flip the shrimp – as they cook they curl and become more three-sided than 2-sided (I ended up using a spatula to scoop them up and move them around) – and cook for another 2 minutes. Flip/toss/move again and cook until just pink and curled – about another 2 minutes.
Remove from the grill and drizzle with remaining sauce before serving.
OMG these were good! We hit them so hard that there was quickly nothing left but shells and buttery grins. The brine plumped up the shrimp and made then extra sweet and tender, and the butter sauce added a ton of flavor while not covering anything up. Grilling them in their shells helped not only hold more fo the sauce, but kept the shrimp moist.
The salad was a great match for the shrimp – light and sweet with similar citrus flavors.
Not even going there with this dish.