Monday, September 22, 2008

Lemongrass Grilled Shrimp

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Recently I was asked to do a private cooking class on grilling out. I came up with a full four-course menu of grillable recipes. I knew I wanted to use shrimp but I wanted it to be a little different from the usual lemon-garlic-olive oil marinade, as good as that might be.

I was wandering around the supermarket one afternoon and found something wonderful in the produce department. There were tubes of seasoning pastes in various flavors, but the one that appealed to me was the lemongrass.

I like the flavor of lemongrass, widely used in Thai, Vietnamese and other oriental cooking. It has a pungent lemon flavor that blends well with the other elements of those cuisines: garlic, cilantro and hot chiles. But it can be a little tough and fibrous if not prepared correctly. So when I saw the tube of lemongrass paste I grabbed it and went home to play.

This was served at the cooking class as an appetizer, but more recently I served it as a main course for a group of friends. I like to use the larger size shrimp (16-20 to a pound) for this so that it can be marinated a bit longer. Don’t let it set too long in the marinade, though, or it will get a little mushy from the acid in the vinegar.

If you’re using wooden skewers, be sure to soak them at least an hour in warm water so they don’t catch on fire if you are doing these on the grill.

I served it with Zatarain’s Caribbean Rice from the supermarket, which has pineapple in it. The slight sweetness was the perfect accompaniment to the shrimp. Add some fresh green beans, cooked until just crisp-tender and tossed in garlic butter, and you have a wonderful meal.


1-1/4 lbs large shrimp, raw, peeled, tail on
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 large pinch crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
2 teaspoons lemon grass paste
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
8 wooden skewers, soaked for an hour in warm water

Place the shrimp in a bowl. Mix remaining ingredients. Reserve a couple of tablespoons of the mixture and pour the rest over the shrimp. Marinate, chilled, for no more than an hour. Thread the shrimp on the skewers and grill for about two minutes per side. Drizzle with the reserved marinade and serve immediately. Serves 8 as an hors-d’oeuvre or 4 as a main course.

NOTE: This can also be done on a cast-iron griddle or heavy skillet on top of the stove, or under your oven broiler.

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