Essentials: Fast Food, Bittman's Way, with Shrimp Recipe

Essentials: Fast Food, Bittman's Way, with Shrimp Recipe

In the past few months Mark Bittman’s shrimp “my way” has become one of my favorite emergency or late-in-the-week meals. This superfast dish is good with a vegetable, on top of rice, or over angel hair pasta. I think it tastes good the next day, too. Because I use frozen shrimp, they can be on the table in half an hour or less with no planning or trip to the store.

For anyone who eats fish, comfort with shrimp cookery is a great asset. They’re so fast and so versatile. Cookbooks warn about the dangers of overcooking the delicate creatures, but I’ve never had really disappointing results with a shrimp recipe (unlike some scallops and sautéed fish fillets I could mention).

As I said, I use frozen (and peeled and deveined, hooray) shrimp here. Fresh would definitely taste better, but at my grocery store the unfrozen shrimp are usually much more expensive, imported from Asia, and previously frozen anyway—three strikes. My frozen shrimp are wild-caught in the Gulf of Mexico, which, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, makes them “eco-OK” (not the best, not the worst). Although my more-greedy-than-discerning palate and I think frozen shrimp taste just fine (especially in a boldy-flavored preparation like this one), yesterday I was curled up with The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper, which pronounces frozen shrimp “close to tasteless.” Hmm.

I cut the recipe in half for two people, using smaller shrimp and therefore broiling for only 4-5 minutes. I’m afraid I’ve never bothered to track down fresh paprika for this dish. The standards for fresh paprika seem to be so high that just thinking about working it all out exhausts me. Chopped fresh parsley, too, is not in the cards on the nights I make this for dinner, but if you’re game I’m sure it’s a nice touch. And if this sounds like a lot of olive oil…well, it is. It’s delicious.

  • Yield:4


  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 or 4 big cloves garlic, cut into slivers
  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds shrimp, in the 20-30 per pound range, peeled, rinsed, and dried
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh spicy paprika
  • Minced fresh parsley leaves for garnish


  1. 1.

    Preheat the broiler and slip an oven rack into the closest possible position.

  2. 2.

    Warm the olive oil very gently in a large, broad, ovenproof skillet or baking pan. There should be enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan; don’t skimp. Put the garlic in the oil and cook for a few minutes, still over low heat, until it turns golden.

  3. 3.

    Raise the heat to medium-high and add the shrimp, salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika. Stir to blend and immediately place under the broiler. Cook, shaking the pan once or twice and stirring if necessary, but generally leaving the shrimp undisturbed, until they are pink all over and the mixture is bubbly. This will take from 5 to 10 minutes, depending on the heat of your broiler. Garnish and serve immediately.