Pan-Seared Shrimp w/ Thai Chili Cumin Butter

I’m not going to lie, I made this recipe up within 4 minutes; and guess what, it turned out AMAZING!!! I had bought 1 1/2 lbs of shrimp with the head and shell still intact the day before and wanted to whip up something quick to eat with a bowl of rice. (tip: a headless, peeled, and/or de-veined shrimp will always cost more than a whole shrimp- the more labor needed, the more expensive it’ll be. I suggest buying whole shrimp and use the shell and head for stock!).

I originally thought of poaching the shrimp in garlic butter, but eventually decided to sear the shrimp so that there’s a different texture component when taking the first bite. For the sauce, I knew I wanted garlic, chili powder, and butter. I rummaged through my spice cabinet and picked up Mexican oregano and ground cumin. I first sauteed the garlic in olive oil for a bit until the edges started to brown. I threw in the butter with the chili powder, cumin, and oregano. Once I felt that the oregano and spices were well incorporated into the butter, I gave it a taste test; and boy was it DELICIOUS!!! Personally, it was lacking some heat and acidity, so I squeezed in some lemon juice and threw in a couple of Thai chili peppers; the acidity definitely helped bring out the citrus notes from the Mexican oregano and overall rounded out the dish.

If you’re looking for a simple recipe that’ll transport you to the south or to a Cajun seafood boil restaurant, look no further!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 lbs shrimp, whole with head and shell intact
  • 2 tbsp garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano (has a predominant citrus note that goes well with chilies compared to the Mediterranean oregano that’s commonly used in many restaurants)
  • 4-5 Thai chili peppers, fresh or dried
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup butter, unsalted
  • 1/2 lemon
  • Salt, to taste

Garnish:

  • Lemon wedges
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Chopped cilantro

Directions:

  1. Pat dry your shrimp with a paper towel; take your salt and season the shrimp generously.
  2. Sear the shrimp on a shallow saute pan on medium heat (no fat should be used during this process, you want the shell to be crisp to give you that crunch factor). While cooking the shrimp, the juices from the head will be released; this is totally fine, and in fact we want that!
  3. After searing both sides of the shrimp (about 3 minutes on each side), transfer the shrimp onto a plate and set it aside while working on the butter sauce.
  4. Using the same pan, add the olive oil and let it warm up on medium heat before adding in the garlic and oregano. Let it cook until the garlic starts to brown on the edges.
  5. Add in the butter, chili powder, and cumin with the garlic; once the butter has fully melted, turn the heat down to a medium-low heat and let the sauce simmer for 5 minutes to marry all the flavors together. Season the butter sauce with salt to your liking.
  6. Bring the pan back up to a medium-high heat and add the shrimp into the pan with the butter sauce. Squeeze half of a lemon to the pan and add the Thai chili peppers as well.
  7. Once the sauce has been fully incorporated with the shrimp, top off the dish with some freshly chopped cilantro, toasted sesame seeds, and lemon wedges.
  8. Enjoy the dish as is or with a bowl of freshly steamed rice!

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