Saturday, January 9, 2010

Jerk Shrimp over Risotto - Restaurant Quality Main Course

It's 3 in the afternoon on my (seemingly never ending) Christmas Eve meal. Starting at 8 AM, one dish an hour til I scream no more (not close yet). Today I am revealing the top to my 2 PM dish, Spinach/mushroom Risotto... Jerk spiced SHRIMP!

This dish is very romantic for Jackie and me. We got married in Jamaica, home of JERK spices. BBQ purists will tell you that Jerk originally referred to the cooking method (very similar to American BBQ, low heat, long cooking times). But, the term has evolved to mean the spices used to cook on the islands more than the method. There are a couple of theories of where the name originated (three if you count, "That jerk down the road that cooks spicy food"). the most popular is that it's a variation on the world "charqui", a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became"jerky" in English. Another possible origin links it to the act of jerking strips of meat from an animal carcass, since whole hogs were originally used in the process.

There are many recipes for Jerk spice. The classic base contains allspice, and scotch bonnet chili peppers. There are lots of commercial jerk spice available, but know that any true Jerk spice is going to be very hot. Scotch bonnet peppers are among the hottest peppers in the world. Check the ingredient list of the commercial brands. If they advertise scotch bonnets, the spice will indeed be hot. HOWEVER, most spice packages that advertise themselves as JERK contain much milder peppers (usually just jalapeno). If you are using an unfamiliar package of pre-made spices, it is best to taste a teeny tiny amount prior to pouring the spices on. Word to the wise, a little goes a long way. But, if it is "fake" jerk spice, made with milder peppers, you will need to use much more to achieve the same taste.

Many people have an aversion to jerk spices because they have had inconsistent tastes. Painfully hot once and very mild the next. the easy way to fix that is to find a good recipe for a Jerk rub (spice), and make your own food with the rub and stop ordering from restaurants!

Here's a good recipe for a medium heat jerk rub. I make a batch of this about every six months. Lasts a long time. Also, because I use the same formula, I know what to expect when I add a teaspoon or a half a cup..

  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup scallion, minced
  • 2 scotch bonnet (or habanero works equally well)
    peppers (no seeds, white meat "ribs" removed from the insides), minced

  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Spread the onion, scallion and peppers into a thin layer on some parchment paper. It is best to put these in a smoker for a few hours to dry out at low heat, with wisps of hickory smoke to add a layer of flavor. OR, put in a standard oven at 225 for a few hours til they are dehydrated. then put them in a spice grinder and reduce them to a powder. Combine with the remaining dry spices and you now have several meals worth of jerk spice.

Like I said... make your own, or use a standard commercial variety. Have this all ready, as when you start cooking shrimp, it goes fast...

But first, I wanted to brine my shrimp.

Brining is an easy (but too often rarely used) method of adding flavor and moisture to meat. I fell in love with the method for turkeys, but the feelings grew stronger when I used the same method for shrimp.

  • 1 cup boiling water

    Combine with
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup honey (or raw sugar)

    Once all is dissolved, remove from heat and add...
  • 2 cups very cold water, mix well
  • add 1 pound medium shrimp (no peal, no tails). Allow to marinate covered in the fridge for just 30 minutes. Any longer, and the shrimp becomes too salty.
Actually cooking the shrimp is fast and easy. even faster if you don't brine the shrimp.
  • Melt 1 stick of butter in a saucier pan
  • Add 2 tablespoons of Jerk Spice rub
  • Add the 1 pound of Shrimp
  • Stir constantly over medium heat for just about 5 minutes until the shrimp turns pink. DO NOT OVERCOOK THE SHRIMP
These spicy beauties paired very well with the creamy risotto I made yesterday (Click HERE for that recipe). I topped with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, and we spent an hour remembering Jamaica! We even dug out that wedding video I hadn't looked at for 10 years. I used to be hot... What the heck did Jackie do to me in the last 10 years???

Just in case you aren't paying close attention, I am posting my Christmas Eve dinner with my wife. We decided to recreate our culinary journey through restaurant quality meals. So far, you have missed...
Come back tomorrow to see what we did at 4 PM it's time to make another drink!!


  1. We grill and prepare a lot of shrimp at our house. I found it interesting about the idea of brining the shrimp before cooking it....Hmmm, I think I will have to try this method.

    I have always enjoyed a good jerk spice (fiery hot). I have never made one, and I did not realize that it contained scotch bonnets (makes perfect sense). Thanks for sharing. I learned a few things today.

  2. Yes I am going to try to brine the shrimp first too... and when I get home I am making risotto!
    So, I know that this is over the course of a day... but that's a lotta cooking and eating!

  3. I really appreciate the recipe for jerk seasoning. Your shrimp look wonderful. I love the "fly me to the moon" relationship you have with Jackie. I'm sure she loved every morsel of the feast.

  4. Those shrimp look superb! We usually buy a jerk seasoning called Walkerswood, which has just the right kick for me. I've never had it with seafood though - definitely one to try.

  5. Appreciate the jerk seasoning recipe!

    I am enjoying each and every one of these posts.

  6. I agree on brining shrimp. It's an easy way to plump up and keep shrimp moist. Looks good!

  7. I love jerk chicken but haven't tried it on shrimp. I have a jerk paste that I use and we LOVE it. And yes, it incorporates the scotch bonnett, it just isn't jerk without it, to me.

    The series is going well, I'm liking these.

  8. Hmmm... sounds really good... I'll have check out those scotch bonnett chili peppers

  9. Sounds so good! I love spicy! I learned something here,of the origin of this spice. Thank you.
    Blessings to you and Jackie. Catherine

  10. I love spicy shrimp. I bet this dish tasted delicious.
    Thanks for posting on my blog. Hope you enjoyed.
    Looking forward for your 3pm recipe

  11. this meal looks more and more incredible with every post. jamaica! luckies! i love the look of this shrimp!

  12. I didn't even know you could brine shrimp!

  13. That jerk shrimp has got to be da bomb! I love shrimp and I love jerk seasoning. I bet it was amazing and delicious with that creamy risotto. What an awesome Christmas eve culinary adventure!

  14. Yum! I love jerk everything. Your shrimp looks fantastic! I used to work at a little cafe in Boise that had the most excellent jerk chicken. It always smelled heavenly while it cooked in the rotisserie oven.

  15. Looking forward to each of these posts. I like the series. Such fun. Great jerk seasoning recipe. Never thought to brine shrimp before, thx for idea.

  16. That looks spicy man! I'm enjoying the romantic stroll....

  17. oh my...a whole day of feasting, what's not to like?! You made that risotto even better!Shrimps...yum...

  18. This one is super romantic :D. What a great way to commemorate the place where you got married.

    I can't say that I've ever had real jerk cooking. I am bookmarking this spice rub, though. Need to try it.

  19. mmm... love jerk! I've never made my own, though. My inlaws got me some while in Jamaica for a holiday. I eat it on everything! I'll have to try your recipe.