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RBR Tailgating: Blackened Shrimp with Spicy Ginger Pepper Sauce

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In which a dangerous creature (at least to me) rises ominously from the deep.

I have no idea what the final assembly of this week’s recipe tastes like. I like the sauce a lot, but my immune system, apparently on hair trigger, has identified one or more of the components that make up shellfish as the enemy and dared the offending chemical to enter my body at… well, at my risk.

Nothing happens to the shellfish beyond the usual digestive stuff. It’s me that bears the brunt of the immuno-rampart manning. I puff up, get tunnel vision, and say stupid things (relative to my baseline stupidity.) Most vexing is that I wasn’t always allergic to the stuff, so I’m well aware of the tastes I’m not likely to enjoy again. Mussels in a white wine broth with tomatoes and saffron or plain old oysters on the half shell, the small salty ones from the Pacific, are particularly missed.

I have tasters though. My wife and children love shrimp, and, given that my issue makes its appearance in our kitchen a rarity, they have every reason to give frank reviews where my feelings are secondary to weeding out imperfections that might reappear if and when they get to indulge in the future.

My kids, age eight and fourteen, think this is too spicy. Neither touched the sauce. That’s an indication of quality for everyone out there who likes hot food. Should a grain of cracked pepper accidently land on a maple syrup drenched buttermilk pancake one or the other is likely to say it’s too spicy. They like hot sausages though, and the younger will eat sriracha. There’s not a lot of rhyme or reason.

After taking a paper towel to the blackening spices and disinfecting the little beasts of as much added flavor as possible, they told me they loved it. Take what accolades that come your way.

My wife loved it, and not in a marital devotion way.

She said that the spice was strong, but not so much that other flavors were lost. The lime, ginger, butter, and mint all came through.

I’m particularly interested in the opinion of others this time since I’ve got nothing but nineteen year old memories of shrimp to guide my imagination. As I mentioned, I tasted the sauce. I need it on a rare as hell tuna steak. I assume that would be a hell of a combination, but unlike with shrimp, it’s a combination I can try and verify that it’s a hell of a combination. It would be sinful to compare myself to a biblical figure when referring to something so trivial as Saturday game food, but if I were to do that I’d clearly be Moses leading people to a promised land that he himself will never enter. If I were to do that.

Seafood seems an apt choice for this game considering that, per meteorology, Hurricane Delta (the hurricane name givers having gone on strike or exhausted their copy of Top Baby Names of 1934) is on course to make the Landsharks learn to swim.

I’m of two minds about rainy games. The ball is slippery, harder to hold on to, and harder to catch. Your cleats don’t have as much purchase and current wisdom nods toward a north south run game as the best use of possession. Yeah, but…

I think about the receivers. Yes the ball is dripping rain and slippery to the best hands, both of the throwers and catchers. Yes, the ground is unsure. Yes mud slows you down and requires more effort from tiring muscles. But those are circumstances that affect everyone on the field.

I wonder if the receiver looks across the line at the defensive backs and smiles thinking “Only one of us knows where we’re going.”

In the best of cases weather wise, the clearest day, the receiver has an advantage. He knows the route. The coverage doesn’t. His moves are deliberate. Theirs are reactive. The slightest slip and that receiver inherits the makings of a big play. Now introduce unsure footing.

I’m not claiming any expertise and my experience playing football in the rain include nuns yelling about getting our school uniforms dirty. My ignorance aside, I think I’d rather be anybody but a defensive back on a drenched football field.

Blackened Shrimp with Spicy Ginger Pepper Sauce

- 12 oz. shrimp, I used the small kind but it’s up to you

- 1-2 tbsp. unsalted butter

- juice of 2 limes

- zest of 1 lime

- 2 tbsp. ginger, grated (that’s a lot, but I love ginger - if that much makes you nervous start with 1 tbsp. and add to taste)

- 2 red chilis, deseeded and chopped

- 1 heaping tbsp. fresh mint, chopped

- 1 heaping tbsp. fresh Italian parsley, chopped

- 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to taste

- salt to taste

- blackening spices

o 1 tbsp. paprika, smoked is better but not necessary

o 1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper

o 1 tsp. onion powder

o 1 tsp. garlic powder

o 1 tsp. black pepper

o 1 tsp. kosher salt

o ½ tsp. dried oregano

o ½ tsp. dried thyme

o ½ tsp. ground cumin

There’s not a lot of deftness to this recipe.

In a medium mixing bowl combine the lime juice and zest, ginger, chilis (note from the picture that rather than chopping I sliced some of the chilis into rounds because I thought they’d look better - either is fine,) mint, parsley, and olive oil. Salt to taste and add more olive oil if needed.

Now you have sauce.

In a small bowl, combine all the spices and stir.

Now you have blackening spices.

Of course you could go to the store and buy premade blackening spices and no one would know the difference, but the mix I put together is made from kitchen staples that are likely to be on hand for most. I’d say that paprika, cumin, salt, and oregano are necessities but if you are missing one or two of the rest, don’t sweat it.

Put 1 tbsp. of butter in a skillet over medium high to high heat, turning the pan to coat. Add the shrimp and simmer for 2-3 minutes. If it looks dry, add the second tbsp. of butter.

Next pour the spices over the shrimp and stir to coat.

Sauté for an additional 3 minutes or so until the shrimp is cooked through.

We spooned the sauce over the shrimp but you could just as well toss them in the bowl together. Serve with rice or something else cooling and keep a glass of water or beer on hand.

So Saban gets to face a former assistant for the twenty-first time and we get to see how effective the jet sweeps and bubble screens are in a downpour. We also get to see how Joey does covered in actual fresh water. Take it all in with a full belly.

Enjoy, no injuries, and Roll Tide.