Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Thousand Mile Diet....

Shrimp, salsa, sun, sand, Spanish....all of these wonderful things come from our neighbor to the south, our neighbor who provides us with so many good things in the off season like watermelons, tomatoes and zucchini. And our neighbor who also provides us with some not-so-good things, like drugs and its related violence that spills over the border. Being in California, I sometimes think that things from Mexico are "local-ish," though in reality, most items probably come from thousands, not hundreds of miles away. But sometimes, the weather is so beautiful, so warm, so achingly summer-like, that I feel possessed by the urge to whip up a watermelon margarita, or eat shrimp, or mangoes.

That was the trifecta of non-local evil that we consumed the other night. After an exhausting day of shuttling the children, trial and error with our French press (that we dug out of our camping box after our beloved coffee maker with attached steamer broke), doing laundry in a half-broken washing machine (it doesn't spin out the excess water very well any more), and being irritated by our broken microwave, I caved. And I have to say that I should probably feel more guilty about it than I do. But when your appliances are falling to pieces around you, and their repair and/or replacement is more effort and/or money than you are willing to spend, a taste of Mexican summer tastes damn good.

I brined the shrimp. Have you tried brined shrimp yet? It totally transforms both their flavor and texture, virtually assuring you wonderfully seasoned and tender shrimp every time. Before I discovered brining, the window to shrimp perfection was perilously small....cooked one minute, maybe even thirty seconds too long, they become tough and rubbery, and one minute on the other side is underdone. Brining opens that window and allows a little more wiggle room. A little more. Don't go crazy and answer the door while you've got shrimp on the grill...even for a Girl Scout peddling cookies. But you know what I mean. Brined shrimp are just better all around. It only takes about 30 minutes to do, and unlike when I used to brine my Thanksgiving turkey, no bathtubs or 5 gallon buckets are required. Shirts and shoes aren't either...we are pretending it's a Mexican summer, right?

Grilled Brined Shrimp with Mango Salsa

No shirt, no shoes, no problem!

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 20 minutes
Yield: serves 4....okay, 2


1 pound of jumbo shrimp (16-20 count)
1/3 cup kosher or sea salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups ice
1 mango, peeled, pitted and diced
1/2 a red bell pepper, diced
2 tablespoons of minced red onion
1 tablespoon of minced fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced
2 teaspoons evoo (extra virgin olive oil)
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded, deveined and minced
pinch of salt and pepper


1. Prepare the shrimp. If you can find peeled and deveined shrimp, and you have the extra cash to pay for them, by all means do it. It is quite the time saver. But if you have to (or want to) do it yourself, here is what I do. I like to grill my shrimp "butterflied" so using a sharp knife, I peel them, slice open the back, remove the vein (read, intestinal tract) and open the shrimp like a book, taking care not to break it in half. For more specific instructions on how to prep shrimp check here. His cute accent doesn't hurt either....

2. Make the brine. Place the salt, sugar, water and ice in a large bowl. Gently submerge the shrimp in the brine and let them sit for 30 minutes. This would also be a good time to soak any wooden skewers in a separate bowl of water so they don't catch fire on the grill.

3. While the shrimp is brining, make the mango salsa. If you need instructions on how to peel and cube a mango look here. But basically you cut around the big, hairy pit so that you have large hunks of mango. Score the flesh into a grid pattern, invert the flesh so that the cubes pop out and remove the skin with a sharp knife. You will have little cubes of mango that way. So, place your cubes of mango into a small mixing bowl. Add the onion, cilantro, bell pepper and jalapeno and stir. Squeeze in the lime juice and drizzle over the oil. Stir to combine. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and taste for seasoning.

4. Remove the shrimp from the brine and put two or three on each skewer. Spray a grill (or grill pan) with cooking spray and heat to medium high. Grill the shrimp for 2-3 minutes on each side or until just cooked through. They will have turned pink and be and opaque throughout. Remove from heat and serve immediately with mango salsa, over a bed of rice if desired.

1 comment:

Cape Cod Judy said...

Wow - the writing was fantastic, Alison. (And the recipe looks pretty good, too!)Sorry about your appliances. You probably don't have to cook on a stove where only one (gas) burner works well and nothing can be turned down to simmer. Sigh....

Never did get to use my French press - bought after seeing them used all over England (they can't seem to brew coffee there; it's instant or French press).

Bring on the margueritas - Ole!