This recipe springs from a lovely gift of Parsi Sambhar Masala from an Indian friend and fellow foodie.
Sambhar Masala is a spice blend from southern India composed of chili, coriander, fenugreek, mustard, cumin, fennel, curry leaves, cloves, and (in this case) mango powder. I had never used or eaten it before, so I decided to start easy and marinate shrimp in it before giving them a quick saute. To accompany it, I tried a new recipe, Curried Chickpeas from Joan’s on Third’s on Food52, and added my favorite Mujaddara with Spiced Yogurt (rice, lentils, and caramelized onions) recipe from Rivka on Food52. Even though Mujaddara is technically Middle Eastern, not Indian, Indian food often features rice and lentils, and doesn’t multiculturalism make everything richer?
This is a very straight-forward recipe so I’ll try not to be too long-winded (HA), but this is a classic example of my tenet ADAPT. The Mujaddara and Chickpea recipes are 100% other people’s recipes, and all I’m doing is adding some shrimp to round out the meal. That said, spices can be difficult to predict in recipe creation because you don’t want to taste a mouth full of spices to see how they blend together. Fortunately shrimp and chicken are both fairly neutral flavored, allowing for testing of new spice combinations using the method in this recipe. I suppose you could even mix up a bunch of variations and test them all in the same night, if you are very ambitious!
Shrimp – A note about shrimp. Pleeease don’t overcook your shrimp! I like to joke that I prefer my shrimp as sushi, but really I’m just so frustrated at the number of restaurants that can get everything about a dish right, and then ruin the shrimp. They are so small – the line between raw and overcooked is razor thin, and the beauty of a perfectly cooked, almost crunchy shrimp is matched only by the disappointment of an overcooked, chewy one. I am not immune to accidentally overcooking shrimp – it becomes much more difficult when they are a component of a larger dish, such as risotto, or when you can’t accurately monitor their cooking, such as when they’re in a sauce. Therefore dishes like this one are a great option to learn what properly cooked shrimp tastes like and how to consistently achieve them.
Step 1: Place shrimp in pan so they have their own surface area. They’ll cook unevenly if they’re piled up on other shrimp. Note that at this stage they are a translucent grey. You can’t fully see through them, but there is some light filtering through.
Step 2: Watch for signs of cooking. They will start to curl up. You will start to see opaque pink/white color on the bottom and spreading up the sides.
Step 3: BEFORE the opacity reaches halfway up the shrimp, flip them over.
Step 4: Monitor cooking on the second side. It will go faster than the first, since the shrimp are already warm. I usually count on carryover cooking (the cooking that happens after you remove food from the heat) and pull my shrimp out of the pan as soon as all visible areas are opaque.
4-6 servings (with sides)
- 1/2 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 Tbsp Parsi Sambhar Masala
- 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- In a medium bowl, mix together, shrimp, salt, and spices and marinate for 15 min
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat
- Distribute shrimp and cook until just opaque, ~1 min per side
What’s not to like? Spicy but not too spicy. Easy and fast. Trying out a fun new ingredient. Loses a star because it’s not mind-blowingly inventive.