Head-On Spanish Shrimp
Remember traveling? Barely, right? Yeah, me too. With the one-year anniversary of the Covid Pandemic upon us, I've been thinking A LOT about the travels I took in the "before times" and longing to go somewhere I can't drive to and sleep in something other than a tent. (Don't get me wrong - I love camping. But DAMN am I ready for an actual vacation that doesn't involve sleeping in the dirt.) The good news is that there's a light at the end of this VERY LONG tunnel, and we will all be able to get back to traveling soon.
In the meantime, I've been scrolling through the (hundreds of) photos from my three-week honeymoon in Spain, and it inspired me to develop (yet another) spice blend - one that takes me back to those little bodegas in Barcelona, those rooftop bars in Madrid, that seaside bar in Basque Country, that cafe with a view of the Alhambra in Granada, that bar on the plaza in Valladolid, or the cliffside restaurant with the view of the Ronda bridge. (Yes, we covered basically the entire country in three weeks.) Enter my Spanish Sunset Spice Blend, a unique combination of Spanish paprika, onion, garlic, sun-dried tomato, white wine vinegar, kosher salt, orange zest, and saffron. Just smelling it makes me feel the Spanish sun on my face.
One of my absolute favorite things to eat is head-on shrimp. Like, it's my Final Meal food. Seriously. And some of the best head-on shrimp I've ever eaten were in Seville, at a little restaurant down the street from our AirBnB. I think we ate there three times in the two days we were in Seville, which is crazy because I generally like to eat at as many places as possible whenever I travel. So, naturally, one of the first things I wanted to make with my new spice blend was some head-on shrimp.
Now, you admittedly don't NEED to do anything to good head-on shrimp to make them delicious. You can just toss them in a little olive oil, throw them on the grill, and finish them with a sprinkle of salt. But the sauce you get from this recipe is NEXT LEVEL delicious, so give it a try. Oh, and make sure you've some crusty bread and lots of extra napkins. You'll need both. ;-)
Head-On Spanish Shrimp
12 large head-on shrimp or prawns*
Extra-virgin olive oil, as needed
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons Spanish Sunset Spice Blend (get yours here)
1 lemon, cut in half, for serving
Using kitchen shears, cut down the back of the shrimp from the head to the tail and remove the waste tract using a toothpick. This will also make your shrimp easier to peel.
Heat a large cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place the lemons, cut side down, in the skillet and allow them to sit undisturbed until you get a caramelized char on the cut side. Remove from the skillet and set aside.
Toss the shrimp with enough olive oil to coat, and lightly season with salt. Add the shrimp to the skillet and cook, turning as needed, until the shells are well seared, the bodies have curved and the flesh is nearly cooked through, about 4–6 minutes. Transfer to a plate. Turn the heat down slightly and, while the pan is still hot, add another glug of olive oil and the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the garlic starts to turn a light golden brown, about 30 seconds. Add the white wine and Spanish Sunset Spice Blend and cook until the wine is reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan and stir to coat.
Transfer the shrimp and sauce to a serving plate. Serve with the charred lemon for squeezing.
* Note: If you can't find head-on shrimp you can use headless ones. Just be sure to still use shell-on shrimp, as the shells really impart flavor, and it's just not the same if you don't have to lick your fingers.