Skewer Me This: Shrimps, not Shrimps

BY BILL ST. JOHN

Shrimp, Bubba, can be shrimpy: small, little pink commas popped into the maw after a dunk in cocktail sauce. But shrimps, Bubba, can be anything but shrimpy, too.

Next time you're trawling for these crustaceans at the seafood counter, take a gander at any numbers you see next to them. Shrimp are sold by "count," the numbers telling how many shrimp will be sold per pound. So, for example, the count on so-called "Extra Large" shrimp is "26/30," meaning there are 26 to 30 "extra large" shrimp per pound. This is where the jokes come in: thirty wee ones a pound and they're called "extra large"?

But when Marczyk's offers "10/12" count shrimp, now we're talking the oxymoron; these are big shrimps, a dozen max a pound. What to do with them? Skewer 'em on the outdoor grill; they're meat that swims.

  • To prepare larger, shell-on shrimp: Take each raw shrimp, peel off the shell beginning at the small end near the tail, leaving on the final tail shells, working your way through to the larger end, removing all the shell. (The wee feet can stay; if they come off, no worries.)
  • Now, take a very sharp paring or filet knife and, again working up from the smaller end, slice with the sharp edge of the knife along the curved "back" of the shrimp, going in just a little bit, in order to expose the shrimp's dark-colored digestive tract (commonly called "vein").
  • Place the shrimp under running cold water and flush out the digestive tract.
  • The best way to skewer shrimp is to curl each into a tight "C" or even a circle and thread the skewer through the diameter, pushing through both sides and thus holding the shrimp firmly over the heat. It's interesting to note that our word "shrimp" derives from the Middle High German schrimpfen, which means "to contract" or "to wrinkle." If they're not secured properly on the skewer they won't grill properly either.

Here's a simple, delicious recipe for lemon-y, herb-y, Greek-y grilled, skewered large shrimp:

Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
1 lemon, zested and juiced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
16 large shrimp, peeled, and deveined
1 summer squash, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 zucchini, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces 

Directions
Special equipment: 4 wooden or metal skewers 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the oil, garlic, oregano, lemon juice, and zest and season with salt and pepper. Alternately thread the shrimp, squash, onion, and zucchini onto the skewers, using 4 shrimp per skewer. 

Put the kebabs in a shallow baking dish and pour the marinade over the top. Marinate the kebabs at room temperature, turning occasionally, for 10 minutes. 

Preheat an indoor grill pan or an outdoor grill. Grill the kebabs, turning and basting with the marinade occasionally, until lightly charred and just cooked through, about 4 minutes.