Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Tequila Tipsy Shrimp

One of the habits I like to encourage is taking children to the grocery -- not because we moms have to, but because they can be such fun experiences. Now, I'm not talking about a rushed trip when there's nine million things to buy and it's been a long day; I'm not crazy, after all. But every now and then, it's fun to go to the store just for the sake of taking a look around. The children are relaxed, you're not on a mission to buy and get out as quickly as possible.

It's an opportunity for fun, and we have to capture those whenever we can.

This past Saturday found us at the seafood counter. We're becoming more conscious of where our food comes from, so we picked two of the items of U.S. origin: shrimp and catfish. Both are favorites in our house.

The shrimp were destined for a bath of tequila, garlic, olive oil and finely chopped cilantro from the back yard. No, there was no salt in this marinade, nor any pepper. The shrimp looked great, and didn't need any additional help, other than this marinade that's really much milder in result than its ingredients list would hint at. I peeled, deveined them and set them in this marinade about 30 minutes before cooking time.

At the same time, I put some small red potatoes in the microwave to steam.

The catfish was rubbed with a Cajun-style mix of seasonings (buy ready-made if you don't have an overflowing spice cabinet). The shrimp was skewered; my cast-iron griddle was set on the grill to heat for about 10 minutes until it was smokin' hot. The cooked potatoes were seasoned with salt, pepper, some olive oil and little leftover cilantro; they went on an aluminum pie plate that had some holes poked in the bottom and were popped on the top rack of the grill, but not directly over the skillet or fire.

When blackening fish, it's important to have a hot, heavy griddle or skillet. Once the fish is down DO NOT MOVE IT until you're ready to flip three minutes later. Exactly three minutes, then flip with a wide spatula. A fork will not work and will only break up your fish. Three more minutes, and it'll be done. Six minutes per inch for fish. It will continue cooking after it comes off the grill, so don't overcook it.

In that six minutes, you're potatoes (stuck on the top grate) should be nicely wreathed in smoky flavor. Your shrimp (offset to a cooler part of the grill and flipped once or twice) should be just cooked AND NOT OVER-COOKED. Squirt them with some lemon juice as they grill.

Dinner done with little prep, very little mess and flash-cooked on the fire. Do I hear a margarita calling?