I am making a California Fusion birthday dinner with Uyghur lamb and naan. If I was trying for a traditional Uyghur menu seafood would be right out—the closest ocean to Kashgar is at least 2,000 miles away over the Himalayas. But hey, this is California and I’ll make what I like.
Note: On this site, this province will usually be spelled “Sichuan,” the Pinyin Romanization of the Chinese characters—the system used by the mainland Chinese, where we lived for several years. “Szechuan” is the Wade Giles Romanization—used by the English and Taiwanese. The spelling you choose to use is, of course, a political marker.
To peel or not to peel, that is the question. Leaving the shells on the shrimp protects the delicate flesh of the shrimp and allows a more flexible cooking time. Peeling the shrimp before cooking makes them easier to eat, but increases the risk of tough over-cooked shrimp.
I am using colossal shrimp for this recipe. As a compromise, I have decided to half peel my shrimp. The thick “head” end of the shrimp will take longer to cook than the thinner part near the tail. Leaving some of the shell on will keep the small end of the shrimp from overcooking.
While these shrimp are fantastic on their own, I thought that maybe they would be even better with some vegetables. I am already using my grill for cooking the lamb, so I thought I would skewer and grill some pearl onions and mushrooms to add o the shrimp dish. I would then reheat them by tossing them in as I finished off the shrimp.
After Dinner Note: This turned out to be the star dish of the evening. The addition of the grilled onions and mushrooms really took the dish to another level.
Karl’s Szechuan Salt & Pepper Shrimp with Grilled Pearl Onions and Mushrooms
½ lb. white pearl onions
½ lb. crimini mushrooms
¼ cup peanut oil, separate uses
2 lb. colossal shrimp (13-15), raw and shells on
2 tsp. Szechuan Salt & Pepper
1. Peel, place the onions on a skewer, and brush with peanut oil.
2. Trim the mushrooms, place them on a skewer, and brush with peanut oil.
Tip: Halve or quarter any large mushrooms. Ideally they should all be about the same size.
3. De-vein the shrimp and remove about 50% of the shell, from the thicker end.
4. Rinse shrimp and pat dry with paper towels.
Tip: To get a good sear on the shrimp you want them to be as dry as possible. Wrap them in paper towels and let them dry in the refrigerator for half an hour.
5. Grill the onions and mushrooms until done.
6. Remove the vegetables from the skewers and place them in a bowl.
7. Brush the shrimp with peanut oil on one side.
Tip: You will place the shrimp oiled side up in the pan. The oil will give the salt and pepper something to stick to on top of the shrimp.
8. Put 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet.
9. Preheat the pan, over high heat, until the oil is shimmering.
10. Add the shrimp to the pan and sprinkle with half of the Szechuan Salt & Pepper.
Tip: Do not crowd the pan. For two pounds of shrimp I found I had to use two pans.
11. Cook the shrimp, without stirring, for two minutes.
12. Flip the shrimp and sprinkle with the rest of the Szechuan Salt & Pepper.
13. Scatter the onions and mushrooms around the shrimp.
14. Cook, without stirring, for two minutes more.
15. Toss the contents of the pan and cook for one to two more minutes.
Tip: Here you are mostly trying to make sure that the onions and mushrooms are completely reheated.
16. Transfer to a serving bowl and serve warm.
Tip: Provide a debris bowl for the shells.