OK everyone, listen up. If you are at all a shrimp lover, or run with shrimp lovers, you will want to take particular note of this. This is food of the best kind – it requires about 5 minutes, is brain-numbingly good, doesn’t heat up the house, is perfect for company, and is really more an idea than a recipe per se.
Tonight the dinnertime decision-making process went something like this: we rolled in from Edmonton at about 5, and since there was little in the fridge and neither of us felt like cooking, Mike had the pizza menu in his hand. Then I noticed a lone avocado in the fruit bowl – it had been rock hard when we left on Friday, but was now perfectly ripe. I told Mike to put down the phone and make guacamole - his one (and only, unless you count Kraft Dinner) specialty. There were still some corn tortillas in the depths of the freezer, so I pulled those out, chipped a few off and cooked in them in a little canola oil in a skillet.
But wait, here’s the good part. I was pondering how to turn this into an actual meal, rather than another snack, and thought I’d quickly sauté a few shrimp from the freezer to round it out a bit. (Frozen shrimp thaw almost instantly in a bowl of warm water.) I figured I’d do them in a little oil with a sprinkle of chili powder in an attempt to stay with the Mexican theme. That reminded me of a Mark Bittman quickie I had read about that involved sautéeing shrimp in butter with garlic and chili powder, then finishing it with beer. That reminded me of the unbelievably awesome barbecue shrimp in spicy, buttery sauce that we used to eat at Memphis Blues in Vancouver. Which in turn reminded me of the fact that they just released a cookbook, and that said book was upstairs on my shelf.
And yes, the shrimp recipe was in there! I thought it would be more complex, but it’s nothing more than shrimp sautéed in butter and a sprinkle of their spice rub – the same blend they use on ribs and other meat. Brilliant. There was even a recipe for their rub, but I didn’t have garlic powder, onion powder or Lawry’s Seasoning Salt, so I quickly made up a batch of the stuff I usually use on ribs. (Chili powder, paprika, brown sugar, cumin, oregano – doubling the brown sugar, since there seems to be an awfully lot of sugar in their rub.) But really, any spice rub would do. Then this is all it takes: you throw in a generous pat of butter, cut it with olive or canola oil if you like, into a hot pan, and when the foam subsides, throw in your shrimp (as many as you want to make) and a generous spoonful of the rub. (I threw in a crushed clove of garlic too, since my rub was garlic-free.) Toss them about in the pan for a couple minutes, just until they turn opaque – don’t overcook them, or they will curl up tight and end up tough – and pour out into a serving dish. That’s it.
I have never so badly wanted a warm pan of corn bread - to mop up the buttery, spicy, shrimpy sauce. That’s how they serve it at Memphis Blues – with a thick yellow wedge. Crusty bread would suit as well – anything that keeps you from pawing at the buttery sludge with your fingers and licking it off like a kitten. I am so making this again. Maybe for my birthday. Some things are so worth an hour on the elliptical trainer.
Memphis Blues All-Purpose Dry Rub
1 cup dried parsley
1 cup sugar
1 cup Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. onion powder
3 Tbsp. oregano
3 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. mustard powder
1 Tbsp. celery salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper
Mix all; store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Use on pork, chicken, turkey or fish. (Or shrimp!)