You know how when you were a kid, you learned how to ride a bike, and you realized that riding a bike on the sidewalk isn't all that different from riding it on a hill or on a street or in the playground, and suddenly all you wanted to do was bike around everywhere? Well, last week that happened to me, except instead of learning to ride it was learning to grill, and instead of a bike it was shrimp, and instead of riding on a sidewalk it was flavoring with garlic and lemon, and instead of hills, streets, and playgrounds it was new sauces, herbs, and condiments, and instead of biking around everywhere it was eating shrimp ALL THE TIME.
As I figured out earlier this summer, the real key to awesome grilled shrimp is to treat them with salt and baking soda (to help them stay nice and plump), to nest them tightly together on a couple of skewers in order to reduce their surface area, to make sure they're completely dry before grilling, and to grill them over insanely high heat. This method results in perfect grilled shrimp that can then be dressed up however you like.
5 Steps to the Best Grilled Shrimp
For these guys, I whipped up a batch of Josh's fantastic chermoula, a North African condiment that is somewhere between an Italian pesto and a Spanish salsa verde, or perhaps a South American chimichurri.
It's based mostly on fresh herbs—cilantro and parsley—along with plenty of garlic, cumin, paprika, cayenne pepper, and saffron. You can make it in a standard blender or with a hand blender if you want to be quick and easy about it, drizzling in lemon juice (or preserved lemon juice, if you've got it) and olive oil to emulsify. But if you want to get the absolute best flavor, I'd recommend using a mortar and pestle. Just like with pesto, you get more flavor and better texture from crushing herbs than from chopping them in a blender or food processor.
I went the lazy route and used my immersion blender. After I'd tossed the shrimp in a bit of the sauce right off the grill and spooned the rest over them at the table, they were completely devoured, despite my shortcut.
So, yes, I've been grilling a lot of shrimp lately and force-feeding them all to my dear, patient wife. Somehow she manages to defy my efforts by continuing to smell lovely and ladylike instead of briny and sweet. I'll keep trying.