I need something wide and shallow.
Here’s the exciting thing about this post: you’ll get to feel like you’re PART OF THE ACTION. No, I haven’t invented smell-o-blogging or taste-o-blogging, but after spending almost 10 hours with Graham and Dodge, 2 chefs from the chi-chi Sanderling resort here on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I think I can help you re-create the experience I had chronicling them.
Here’s how you do it: Buy a case of Miller Lite. Drink half of it, to get a good slosh on. After every photo caption in this post, yell drunkenly, “LIKE YOUR MOTHER!” and drink another beer.*
Also, make delicious, spicy honey-glazed grilled shrimp.
*As often as possible, there things that were actually said.
Those shrimp are gonna be really dry.
Above: One Graham Fontes, half of the Graham & Dodge Horse and Pony Jamboree and head chef at The Lifesaving Station, the non-fine-dining restaurant at the Sanderling. Texas-bred, business-minded and able to down entire cases of beer in a single bound, he is possessed of a fierce physical and culinary Napeoleonic complex that he funnels into his (tasty) food.
That sauce is too loose.
Yesterday we had a farewell barbecue for my niece, who left today for a year long Master’s program in Florence; I assume this is her passive-aggressive way of ending our relationship, since she knows that this consumes me with jealousy. Dodge*, Graham, my brother-in-law Peter (a Greenbrier-trained former chef) and Ryan, my nephew and Dodge’s salad boy,** competed to outdo one another. (Dodge and Peter’s food coming in Parts 2 and 3).
All of them pulled out all the stops, but only Graham hit on the clever idea of marinated, grilled, glazed shrimp – heads still on – for my non-shrimp-eating niece. The marinade’s foundation was a spicy mix of hot chiles, ginger, cilantro and other aromatics with the aforementioned Miller Lite; the glaze a blend of butter, honey and sriracha. The leftover marinade and glaze were reduced together to form a hotly flavorful dipping sauce.
*Actual name. He’s from Georgia, what do you want?
*Literally. Not a euphamism for something creepy.
That smells really rank.
The shrimp he got were beautiful, locally-caught Pamlico Bay shrimp – enormous and fresh-smelling, and so gorgeous (as far as shrimp go) that I was only minimally squicked out by the heads and the fact that this makes them look even more like giant bugs than they already do.
Note: the shrimp were in a white bucket that fades to the same white as this background, they weren’t just floating in space. Thankfully.
Man, this is taking a LONG time.
The shrimp spent two hours or so in their beer bath. So did Graham.
It’s just too easy.
What else do you need? Shrimp, beer and a barbie.
They hauled all 9 pounds of shrimp out to the backyard, where the grill was scorching hot, for the hot and dangerous grilling operation: Throw them on, liberally slosh with glaze, flip, slosh with more glaze, try not to catch any part of your body on fire; the latter being a legitimate risk.
Graham spilled his beer as soon as we got outside, which might have been a harbinger, but he pushed on – that’s just the kind of chef he is.* He gave Ryan the job of chief glaze-slosher thus transferring the risk of third-degree burns to someone else, or in chef-speak, “delegating.”
*Drunk and careless.**
**I kid because I love. Also because it’s true.
I need a large vessel.*
The shrimp instantly turned a delightfully saturated pinky-peach color and started taking on gorgeous grill marks…
Those peppers look old and shriveled.
…and the sloshing and flipping and singing of the arm hairs began.
Nine pounds of head-on shrimp are a LOT of shrimp, so they had to split them into two batches. Twice the danger, twice the fun!
That grill hasn’t been hot in ages.
North Carolina afternoon light makes for some hot shrimp-on-grill pr0n.
Graham flipped the shrimp around until most of them were nice and charry and covered with sticky, delicious, butter-laden glaze, and then heaped them onto some platters
Tastes like there’s sand in there.*
And then, not three minutes after the whole thing started it was done, and we descended on the platters of shrimp like starved carrion birds. Because these shrimp? Were seriously good. The marinade had some really strong flavors, but since he’d marinated them shell-on they took on just enough flavor; the heat didn’t overwhelm the delicate sweetness of the shrimp. The sweet glaze also helped cut through the heat; although it too was only on the shell, you can’t help but lick your fingers after each shrimp peeled, which gives you the perfect amount of add-on flavor. Doing the marinating and glazing on pre-peeled shrimp definitely would have intensified the flavor, but I enjoyed the heat as a background note.
Plus, for more heat, there was the dipping sauce – sweet and spicy with a serious chile kick from three hours of simmering and reducing. Dip a little for a hint of flavor, dip some more for some real heat, dip all the way to choke to death as the back of your throat swells shut. In a good way.
If you ever find yourself down Outer Banks way, stop into The Lifesaving Station. If you ask real nice-like, Graham might whip you up some off-menu Grand Marnier-Tarragon Shrimp & Grits and come out of the kitchen to take a picture with you. He might also insult your mother, but it’ll be worth it.
*No, it doesn’t make any sense. But by this point you’d be drunk, and you’d think it was HILARIOUS.
Grilled Shrimp Fontes-Style
Unfortunately, I can’t give you an exact recipe for this, because Graham was flying by the seat of his tiny pants, but I can tell you what went into it and you can take it from there.
The freshest shrimp you can find, as many pounds as you need.
For the marinade:
Thai chiles, several varieties
Beer (a light Pilsner)
For the glaze:
Sriracha (or hot sauce of your choosing)
For the dipping sauce:
Leftover marinade reduced with an equal portion of the glaze until it coats the back of a spoon, then strained.
Finely mince the chiles, ginger, garlic, shallots and cilantro; in a large bowl, toss the mince with the beer, lime and shrimp. Let sit for 1-2 hours.
For the glaze, melt equal parts honey and butter together with as much sriracha as you can handle.
Heat your grill. Add the shrimp in a single layer. Immediately brush with the glaze. Once you’ve hit them all with glaze, begin flipping them – they cook right quick. Glaze the other side. Toss around until all the shrimp are opaque and pink and have some nice grill marks. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately.