With both kids in town for Spring Break (my daughter also brought home her adorable boyfriend), and my mother’s 75th birthday, I was feeding a crowd. I tend to go for Gulf Coast Seafood when creating a meal for a large group, especially during the spring and summer- and this week was no different. Since mouths have been few to feed with the children away and cooking for one (sometimes two if my husband is home), it has been a whirlwind in my kitchen the last couple of weeks, but all came to an end yesterday, Easter.
Our typical Easter meal is large and usually consists of a Spiral Ham, Scalloped Potatoes, Grilled Asparagus, sometimes a soup, salad, a few other sides and a dessert. But, this year I wanted something different, so I thew out some options, took a vote, and the unanimous win was shrimp. Yes, Gulf Coast Fresh Shrimp from Joe Patti’s Seafood in Pensacola, the city where we celebrated the weekend.
I headed over to the Downtown Pensacola dock where Joe Patti’s is located with family in tow, and managed to squeeze into the building-knowing full well it would be packed like a can of sardines, with patrons lining up three deep waiving their ticket in the air when called. Weekends and holidays bring large crowds to Joe Patti’s.
If you have never been, it is an experience, and you must be ready to order when your number is called or you will have a new name… “mud”, as waiting customers will look at you with disdain, and you will be skipped over unless you wave your number in the air and yell, “ME, I’m number 38, I want shrimp!”, which is what I did. In a panic, I forgot to remember the amount of crustaceans I came for, and had to think on my feet, so I over purchased and bought large 5 pounds each of 21/25 count Gulf Shrimp headless AND the 21/25 head on.
My crew (all 6) were pleased, as our Easter dinner was now going to consist of Marinated and Grilled Gulf Shrimp skewers, and Boiled Shrimp. There is also a market at Joe Patti’s, but the crew in tow wanted to visit the local Apple Market where we chose the rest of our dinner. We decided to prepare a fresh salad of mixed greens with homemade blue cheese dressing, a salad of fresh marinated tomatoes, mozzarella & herbs, grilled asparagus, and garlic french bread drizzled with olive oil. We bought individual cupcake cheesecakes (made by a local baker and friend) in assorted flavors so everyone could agree on the dessert.
The meal was bountiful, fresh, local, and a joy to prepare as all pitched in and helped clean up. Sadly all departed after Easter dinner, and I am back to cooking for one.., maybe two.
Marinated Gulf Shrimp Skewers with Sweet Peppers & Cherry Tomatoes
3 pounds large shrimp (21 to 25), shelled and deveined
1 pint cherry tomatoes, trimmed
Orange, yellow and red sweet peppers cut into 1 inch pieces, same amount as tomatoes needed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup Extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 shallot, chopped fine
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
Pinch red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint, plus sprigs for garnish
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
Finely grated fresh lemon zest
Special equipment: Wooden skewers, soaked in cold water for 2 hours, I used metal skewers that attach to a grill pan.
For the shrimp: Thread shrimp onto skewers so the shrimp lay flat. Do the same with the tomatoes and sweet peppers. Brush the skewers with canola oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill the tomatoes first, until slightly charred on both sides and soft, about 2 minutes each side. Reserve the shrimp skewers to the side and lay flat in large pan.
In a large bowl, mix olive oil, garlic, apple cider vinegar, shallots, paprika, red pepper flakes, mint, oregano and lemon zest. Pour mixture over shrimp skewers and refrigerate covered for 2 or more hours.
When ready to grill, turn gas grill to medium-high heat. Lay skewers flat on grill and brush with leftover marinade. Cook for 2 minutes, then flip for another 2 minutes. Do not burn or overcook. They will turn pink when done and have an opaque center. Remove the shrimp, tomatoes and peppers from skewers and serve on a platter top with mint sprigs. Can serve on the skewers if desired.