Greeks and Sicilians in northern Florida were the first people to begin catching royal red shrimp more than 100 years ago, though the shrimp harvest did not become commercially viable until the 1960s.
Traditional recipes among the descendants of those shrimpers tend to be simple. This one is a classic throughout the Greek islands and wherever Greeks have settled. There are dozens of variations, some with cream or yogurt, others with tomatoes and fennel.
In southern France, you find similar concoctions using pastis, ouzo's anise-flavored cousin.
This is hardly a recipe, but more the idea of keeping it simple and not overcooking the shrimp. If you use shrimp other than royal reds, you'll need to cook them a minute longer.
Serve a glass of young Greek rose with this dish. Akakies by Kir-Yianni is made from 100 percent Xinomavro, the superb red grape of Macedonia. Remarkably full-bodied for a rose, with a flowery nose and refreshing acidity, it's just the drink for this lemony meze.
- 1 pound shrimp, preferably royal reds, fresh or defrosted and shelled
- Cayenne pepper
- 1/3 cup ouzo (may substitute other anise-flavored liqueur as long as its alcohol content does not exceed 42 percent)
- 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (from 1 large lemon)
- 1 to 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, preferably Greek
- Fleur de sel or high-quality sea salt, such as Cyprus Flake
Place the shrimp in a large nonreactive baking dish (such as Pyrex) and sprinkle both sides with cayenne pepper to taste.
Combine the ouzo and lemon juice in a measuring cup; pour over the shrimp, tossing to coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours.
When ready to cook, warm a serving a platter.
Drain the shrimp and pat dry; discard the marinade.
Heat a large skillet (not nonstick) over high heat. Add the oil; as soon as it begins to shimmer and coats the bottom of the pan completely, add half of the shrimp. Spread them out and stir-fry for about 1 minute, until just opaque. Transfer to the warmed platter, then add the remaining shrimp to the skillet and cook in the same way, adding them to the platter when done. Season all the shrimp with salt to taste; serve hot or warm.
From cookbook author John Martin Taylor.
Tested by Bonnie S. Benwick.
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