Shrimp is a natural for grilling – The Denver Post

When you think of it, the original one-dish meal was some sort of seared meat on a stick (or spear, harpoon, lance, sharpened stick; it’s a long and ancient list).

Although, I’m pretty sure the list didn’t include shrimp. That came later, maybe with the discovery, first, of these little buggers, then the eureka that they are perhaps the aptest candidate for the skewer at the grill.

Why? The word “shrimp” derives from the Middle High German “schrimpfen,” which means “to contract” or “to wrinkle.” Not only are shrimps sometimes, well, shrimps that inconveniently fall through the grill grates, but a skewer is a perfect way to hold them both against doing that plus to their cooked and contracted state.

The best shrimps for the grill (and skewer) are the oxymoronic large shrimps — sometimes called “prawns” or “scampi” in this country, though the latter is technically a particular preparation of shrimp (an unholy amount of garlic and butter).

So, “shrimp” may mean anything from the little pink commas mixed with Louis sauce and sent into the hollow of an avocado, all the way to the very large, lobster tail-like “prawn.”

Next time you’re trawling for these crustaceans at the seafood counter, take a gander at any numbers that you see displayed next to them. Shrimp are sold by “count,” the numbers telling how many shrimp there are per pound.

So, for example, the count on so-called “Extra Large” shrimp is “26/30,” meaning there are from 26 to 30 “extra large” shrimp per pound. (Not making this up.) This is where the jokes justifiably come in: 30 of these wee ones a pound and they’re “extra large”?

But when you see “10/12” count shrimp, here come the truly large crustaceans, a dozen max a pound. And what to do with them? Skewer ’em on the outdoor grill; they’re meat that swims.

• To prepare larger, shell-on shrimp: Take each raw shrimp, peel off the shell beginning at the small end near the tail, leaving on the fan of final tail shells, working your way through to the larger end, removing all the shell. (The little feet can stay; if they come off, no worries.)

• Now, take a sharp paring or filet knife and, again working up from the smaller end, slice with the sharp edge of the knife along the curved “back” of the shrimp, going in just a little bit, in order to expose the shrimp’s dark-colored digestive tract (commonly called the “vein”).

• Place the shrimp under running cold water and flush out that digestive tract.

• The best way to skewer shrimp is to curl each into a tight “C” or even a circle and thread the skewer through the diameter, pushing through both sides and thus holding the shrimp firmly over the heat.

Keep in mind that if they’re not secured properly on the skewer, they won’t grill properly either.

• For skewers on the grill, you may use those made of either metal or wood (commonly bamboo). If using metal, mind your fingers when they get hot on the grill. Plus, use two metal skewers per kebab, side by side, to keep the shrimps from spinning around on  a single skewer when you turn or flip them on the grill.