Food to Live For: Killer Shrimp with Barbecue Butter

OK everyone, listen up. If you are at all a shrimp lover, or run with shrimp lovers, you will want to take particular note of this. This is food of the best kind – it requires about 5 minutes, is brain-numbingly good, doesn’t heat up the house, is perfect for company, and is really more an idea than a recipe per se.

Tonight the dinnertime decision-making process went something like this: we rolled into town late and almost ordered pizza, but I knew the freezer was stocked with perfectly good food that needed using. I pulled out a bag of frozen shrimp – I thought I’d quickly sauté a few – which reminded me of a Mark Bittman quickie I had read about that involved sautéeing shrimp in butter with garlic and chili powder, then finishing it with beer. That reminded me of the unbelievably awesome barbecue shrimp in spicy, buttery sauce that we used to eat at Memphis Blues in Vancouver. Which in turn reminded me of the fact that they just released a cookbook, and that said book was upstairs on my shelf.

And yes, the shrimp recipe was in there! I thought it would be more complex, but it’s nothing more than shrimp sautéed in butter and a sprinkle of their spice rub – the same blend they use on ribs and other meat. Brilliant. There was even a recipe for their rub, but really, any spice rub would do. Then this is all it takes: you throw in a generous pat of butter, cut it with olive or canola oil if you like, into a hot pan, and when the foam subsides, throw in your shrimp (as many as you want to make) and a generous spoonful of the rub. (I threw in a crushed clove of garlic too.) Toss them about in the pan for a couple minutes, just until they turn opaque – don’t overcook them, or they will curl up tight and end up tough – and pour out into a serving dish. That’s it.

I’ve never so badly wanted a warm pan of corn bread – to mop up the buttery, spicy, shrimpy sauce. That’s how they serve it at Memphis Blues – with a thick yellow wedge. Crusty bread would suit as well – anything that keeps you from pawing at the buttery sludge with your fingers and licking it off like a kitten. I am so making this again. Maybe for my birthday. Some things are so worth an hour on the elliptical trainer.

Memphis Blues All-Purpose Dry Rub

from Memphis Blues Barbeque House: The Cookbook Bringing Southern BBQ Home (Whitecap)

1 cup dried parsley
1 cup sugar
1 cup Lawry’s Seasoned Salt
2 Tbsp. ground black pepper
3 Tbsp. garlic powder
3 Tbsp. onion powder
3 Tbsp. oregano
3 Tbsp. sweet paprika
1 Tbsp. mustard powder
1 Tbsp. celery salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper

Mix all; store in an airtight container for up to 6 months. Use on pork, chicken, turkey or fish. (Or shrimp!)

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