Friday, January 21, 2011

Nimmy's spice-marinated Kerala shrimp

Serves 2 to 4

You'll need big shrimp (20 to 24 count) to make this dish. They are almost impossible to find fresh, but if you can, they will be magnificent. Otherwise, use frozen. (You could also use chunks of fish — swordfish or halibut are good choices because of their firm texture. For fish, add a couple of teaspoons of oil to the marinade.)
1 pound shrimp
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground chili pepper or to taste
2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1-inch piece of peeled ginger, coarsely chopped
Pinch of salt
1. Rinse the shrimp briefly under running water and set aside to drain thoroughly.
2. In a dry saute pan, toast the coriander and cumin seeds with the peppercorns until they give off a strong aroma and start to smoke just lightly. Immediately remove from the heat and transfer to a spice grinder (a mini food processor or a coffee mill that you keep specially for spices; in Kerala cooks grind their spice mixes for masalas or marinades on a convex stone that looks just like a Mexican metate). Grind the spices to a powder and stir in the turmeric and chili.
3. Pound the garlic and ginger with the salt in a mortar to make a paste, then add the powdered spices. Mix well to make a rather dry rub.
4. Turn this over the well-drained shrimps and toss, rubbing with your hands to let the flavoring penetrate the seafood. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for at least an hour, although overnight is better.
Heat the grill and grill the shrimps, painting them with a little olive oil if they look dry. Alternatively, add a small spoonful of oil to a skillet and fry the shrimps over a very hot burner for about 1½ minutes on each side, or until they are done to y