This is my French-flavored version of peel ‘n’ eat shrimp. The sauce is delicious and warrants a whole baguette just for sopping up!
It’s one of those summer dishes that I make frequently for friends and family. The dish pays homage to one of my favorite places on earth, the South of France, where pastis was born.
The flavors of pastis — the anise-flavored aperitif from the south of France — and big, fat jumbo shrimp in the shell complement each other.
Ricard is the pastis brand most commonly available in the states, but if you can’t find it, you can use its cooking cousin, Pernod. Pernod is a useful kitchen staple, and is great paired with shellfish, chicken, mushrooms and spinach — anything that is good seasoned with tarragon.
I leave the shrimp in the shell to protect it from the heat, and because much of the flavor is in the shell. The shrimp can cook longer if left in the shell, absorbing more of the flavors of the fragrant sauce — plus, it is fun to peel and eat the shrimp once they are cooked.
I place the shrimp in the bottom of a gratin dish and pour a full-flavored potion of pastis, olive oil, garlic, fennel seed, green peppercorns, tarragon and coarse sea salt over it. Once the shrimp are soaked in the sauce, I place the gratin dish in a pre-heated grill or oven, and let them cook for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. You’ll know when the shrimp are done when they are curled up and pink. It is better to take them out a little under-done than over-done. The smell is intoxicating!
Serve the shrimp hot-off-the-grill in the gratin dish, and soak up the sauce with a loaf of crusty French bread.
Grilling Method: indirect-medium high
Start to finish: 40 minutes
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for shrimp
¼ cup pastis (either Ricard or Pernod)
8 cloves of fresh garlic, grated
2 teaspoons fennel or anise seeds
2 teaspoons whole green peppercorns
¼ cup chopped fresh tarragon, plus more for serving
24-26jumbo shrimp or tiger shrimp in the shells (the bigger, the better, about 1.5 pounds)
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt
If you prefer to cook this indoors, preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
Whisk together the oil, pastis, garlic, fennel, peppercorns and tarragon. Toss the cleaned and dry shrimp in a bowl with a little oil and the salt. Lay the shrimp in one layer in a shallow gratin dish or casserole (a Pyrex is fine). Pour the pastis mixture evenly over the shrimp.
Place the gratin dish in the center of the cooking grate (or in your oven) and cook about 15-20 minutes, turning the shrimp over once halfway through the cooking time.
Take the dish out of the grill or oven as soon as the shrimp are done. You know they are done when they are pink, their tails are curled and they are just cooked through. Do not overcook them.
Serve the dish family style on a table spread with newspapers or something that washes easily — this dish can get messy!
And don’t forget to sop up the sauce with a crusty baguette.
Nutritional information: 225 calories; 172 calories from fat; 19 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 35 mg cholesterol; 495 mg sodium; 5 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 4 g protein.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Elizabeth Karmel is a barbecue and Southern foods expert. She is the chef and pit master at online retailer CarolinaCueToGo.com and the author of three books, including “Taming the Flame.”