Roast Shrimp with Garlic Butter, Grilled Tangerine and Sweet and Salty Oven Fries

Savory Recipes, Winter • 25 Feb 2014

I wake on a frigid February morning with the lingering scent of salt water in my nostrils, dusty sand-encrusted toes and itchy over-sunned shoulders. As I rouse, the surreal mirage fades into oblivion and I bitterly leave behind my fully realized dream world. We’re in the midst of the shortest but most muscular month, one that is fibrous and unwieldy and leaves many emotionally distraught victims in its wake.

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The smell of salt and sea leaves a cerebral tattoo. For weeks I’ve been daydreaming of the rollicking sea and its rolling dunes, outstretched miles of unspoiled purity and dry, sundrenched warmth. I’ve contemplated leaving it all behind, jumping aboard a plane, one-way ticket in pocket, to a warmer climate- Los Angeles, Jamaica, Australia. Even my toddler son has been experiencing his own brand of seasonal depression, which manifests in the form of jumbled, nonsensical outbursts as he hemorrhages pent-up energy and emotion. The majority of the country is on their knees, beseeching the weather gods for a more temperate climate. We’re disenchanted, at the mercy of the frigid, reticent snow and ice; drenched in meteorological empathy for one another.

I need to break my compulsively bad habits, flown in courtesy of dear Mother Nature. I try to access my New Year’s resolutions anew. What did I tell myself I’d change? I’d read more and I’d write more. I think I promised to eat more oatmeal! I recall a promise to attend a photography class. Alas, the devil’s in the details and I’m participating in none of the above, my resolute, tenacious self replaced by a reticent, lackadaisical caricature. How do I break through the glass ceiling of indifference when I’d rather be elsewhere, luxuriating on a warm beach, beer in my grip, fingers busy denuding peel and eat shrimp.

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And it turns out, shrimp is the antidote to my predicament. I acquire thick-bodied, salmon-toned shrimp that I knew wouldn’t wilt and weep when drenched in precarious amounts of velvety, milky butter. I roast the fat, meaty crustaceans in butter, sunshiny yellow lemon zest and bracingly spicy garlic until their bodies are hyperbolically pink and perky and the oven unfurls a blooming ocean scent. A tangled handful of verdant parsley and spicy red pepper enhance but don’t overpower the flavors.

To finish, grill delicate tangerine slices over a blazing hot grill pan, the oily juice imparting sweetness to the very savory shrimp. Caramelize the glowing fruit in slick olive oil until the natural sugars release, the flesh browns and the fruit begins to wilt.

Simple, savory and sweet, and tasting of the ocean and warm citrus groves, the flavors meld together but don’t overpower. After removing the shells from the shrimp in a very ungraceful, unsophisticated, messy turn of the wrist, we are left with whispers of butter and garlic and tender, sweet and juicy fish, salty like the ocean. The tangerines are pretty fantastic with the seafood, fresh and floral and reminiscent of warmer times.

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The best way slurp up the buttery juices is via crispy sweet and salty oven fries, baked until golden and crisp on the outside, and tender and forgiving in the middle.

We may be inhaling gulps of icy, raw breath out of doors, filling our lukewarm lungs with pent-up anger, resentment and frankly, desire for nicer times. The least we can do indoors is fill our bellies with warm, fresh, comforting eats.

Roast Shrimp with Garlic Butter, Grilled Tangerine and Sweet and Salty Oven Fries

1 pound shell-on deveined jumbo shrimp
1 stick butter, room temperature
3 large garlic cloves, minced to a paste
1 lemon, zested
1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt such as Salfiore di Romagna
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
3 tangerines or Murcott Mandarin oranges
1 teaspoon olive oil

3 Russet potatoes
3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt or kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon chopped parsley

1. Cut away the pith and peel of the tangerines, trimming off the top and the bottom of the fruit. With a knife, slice out the fruit segments and discard the membrane.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil on a grill pan over medium-high heat. Sear the tangerine segments, about 1-2 minutes on each side, until browned and caramelized. Carefully remove tangerines from pan and set them aside on a plate.

3. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees with the oven rack in the middle.

4. In a medium bowl, mash the butter, garlic, lemon zest, salt and black pepper until the butter is soft and the ingredients are well combined.

5. Rinse shrimp in cold water and dry with a paper towel. Arrange in a single layer on a foil lined baking sheet. Put about a tablespoon worth of butter mixture on top of each shrimp. Curl up the corners of the foil to trap the butter and juices during cooking.

6. Put the baking sheet in the oven on the middle rack and cook until shrimp are opaque and pink, about 10-12 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and sprinkle with parsley. Serve shrimp in a large bowl with all the juices and butter, topped with grilled tangerines. The shrimp

8. To make fries, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Peel the potatoes and slice into 1/2 –inch strips. Dry well with paper towels and lay on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and toss well to coat. Roast 20 minutes and turn fries over. Bake another 20-25 minutes until browned and crispy.

9. Remove fries from oven and immediately toss with salt, sugar, cayenne and parsley until well coated. Serve immediately with shrimp.

Yield: Serves 2-3 as a main course and 4 as an appetizer or snack.

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