Shrimp are by far the easiest seafood to cook in my opinion. They absorb pretty much any flavor, and they are quick to make, especially if you buy them already peeled and deveined. This pairing is bold-spicy, flavorful prawns with a sweet but effervescent sake based cocktail, plus an optional side of crunchy, bright shishito peppers charred over open flame. Shishito peppers can be difficult to find if you don’t live in an area with a strong Japanese population or Asian supermarket, but buy them if you get a chance, as long as you like spicy foods. Usually shishito peppers are not spicy, but every now and then they have some serious heat and there is no visual way to tell. The shrimp on their own make a great appetizer, but add the peppers and some rice and you have a stellar meal as well.
1lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
3 tbsp. butter, cut into small pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. hot chili sesame oil
1 tbsp. sesame oil
3 tbsp. soy sauce
6 cloves garlic, pressed with garlic press
1 tsp. ginger powder
Pinch of salt
*Combine marinade ingredients in small bowl. If you have time, let the marinade sit at room temperature for 15-30 minutes to let flavors meld.
Steamed white rice *Saucy Note: When I have the time, I think it is absolutely worth it to make real rice, either in a rice cooker or on the stove. However, for quick meals I have no qualms about microwaved bag rice, which takes 90 seconds and you can now get in Basmati and Jasmine varieties too.
5-10 shishito peppers
Smoked or citrus salt (for peppers) Saucy Note: I make my own citrus salt by mixing ½ cup fresh lemon juice with enough salt to make a very thick paste. Spread thin on a baking sheet and put in 200° oven until dried out. Shake and use fingers to crumble and separate, and store extra in airtight container.
Combine marinade and let sit while preparing shrimp. Start rice if cooking on stovetop.
Peel and devein shrimp if necessary, and remove tails. If it is necessary to peel and devein, start by splitting the shell apart on the underside where the leg seams are. Peel off gently, squeezing the end of the tail gently to press the meat out and remove the shell in one whole piece. Save shells in freezer for seafood stock if desired. Devein shrimp using a paring knife. Make a shallow cut along the visible dark vein line, and gently pull or scrape out dark vein. It can be easier to rinse shrimp under cold water as you clean them, then pat dry with paper towels.
Combine shrimp with marinade and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes.
When shrimp are done marinating, melt butter and olive oil over medium-low heat in a heavy bottomed skillet. When butter starts to foam, stir until foaming reduces and then add shrimp, including marinade. Turn heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Flip and simmer for an additional minute, then transfer contents of pan to bowl large enough to hold shrimp and sauce. Saucy Note: The shrimp should look just underdone. They will finish cooking in the bowl together and be perfectly tender.
If using, char shishito peppers while shrimp rest. Work quickly, since the shrimp only need about 2 minutes rest time. If you’re making microwave rice, use it as a timer. Using metal tongs, char shishito peppers individually over high flame on stovetop until blistered and fragrant (if you don’t have a gas stove, a high broil can substitute, but the peppers lose a little of their crunch.) I also find it easier to char the peppers if I remove the stove grate. If you’re ambidextrous, or just extra coordinated, you can use tongs in both hands to get it done double time.
Plate rice, peppers, and shrimp, pouring extra shrimp sauce into a bowl on the side. For visual appeal, try stacking the shrimp on the peppers, molding the rice, or arranging the food in colorful rows.
Shake says: To go with this spicy appetizer (or dinner), the sweet, bubbly nature of this beverage gives your taste buds a little break from the heat and bold flavors. This drink uses unfiltered sake, which imparts a creamy but delicate sweetness that doesn’t overpower your palate but cuts through the spice.
Equipment: Boston shaker, glass that comfortably holds 6 ounces of liquid (We have Waterford crystal water goblets that I use every possible excuse I can)
3 oz unfiltered sake, nigori style (I used Perfect Snow)
1½ oz fresh grapefruit juice
½ oz honey syrup (To make this, use one part honey, one part hot water. Whisk together until honey dissolves)
1-2 oz sparkling water
Combine sake, grapefruit juice and honey syrup in shaker with ice.
Shake gently for 15-20 seconds and strain into glass. Top with sparkling water and garnish with grapefruit wedge.