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In Louisiana, different sizes of shrimp are typically used for specific dishes. Small shrimp usually end up in gumbos, stews, or étouffées; medium shrimp are for spicy boils, po’ boys, and frying (but let’s face it, all sizes are good fried). The largest, most beautiful shrimp are saved for special preparations, and they are almost always cooked in the shell. I came up with this simple recipe as an alternative to the more classic barbecued shrimp (made with butter and hot sauce), for a similarly spicy result that doesn’t mask the fresh flavor and texture of the shrimp.
I’ve called for red jalapeños because they are widely available, but my first choice is the fresh paprika chiles that we grow in our garden in New Orleans. If you are ever able to get your hands on them, they are incredible, with a perfect balance of sweetness and heat. If you live in the South, try to grow them—you will never see a plant produce more chiles for a longer season.
What to buy: If you can’t find red jalapeños, green jalapeños or red Fresno chiles are a good substitute.
Recipe provided by Chef Donald Link, author of “Real Cajun: Rustic Home Cooking from Donald Link’s Louisiana.” Adapted with permission from “Real Cajun.”