Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp   Recipe
Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp

By Wolfgang Puck

It's hard to think of a more enjoyable way to kick off a party than having people gather in your backyard or kitchen while you prepare a little appetizer to pass around with drinks.

But lots of people draw a blank when it comes to dreaming up a great appetizer to serve when they're grilling. They're too preoccupied with the main event -- the steaks or chops or chicken or seafood -- to be bothered with grilling a little something extra to start the meal. And so they usually fall back on a platter of vegetable crudites or chips and dips to keep guests entertained.

That's why shrimp are such an excellent choice to start a summer grill party. Almost everyone loves them, and the hint of smoky flavor they get from the fire goes well with their naturally sweet taste. They're easy to prepare and cook quickly on the grill, so very little extra work yields a rapid, positive payoff.

I like to look for extra-large or jumbo shrimp for my grilling. Two make a generous appetizer, and even one alone is a great nibble. For the best quality, buy them from a market with a good turnover of product, and avoid shrimp that look in any way "off" or don't have the fresh, clean scent of the ocean.

Cook the shrimp the same day you buy them. To peel shrimp, just pull apart the shell between the rows of legs. Then, to devein each shrimp, make a shallow slit along the outer curve of the body to expose the dark, veinlike digestive tract, then pull it out.

Shrimp curl up as they cook. So, to help them cook quickly and evenly on the grill, as well as to prevent them from falling into the fire, I skewer each shrimp all along its length to flatten it out and hold it in place.

Finally, I like to add a little something to protect the shrimp from the heat of the grill, wrapping each one in a thin slice of prosciutto, the famous dry-cured Italian ham. Its sweet, salty flavor is always a perfect complement to the seafood, while helping to ensure it doesn't overcook. If you like, before wrapping them you can also season the shrimp with grated lemon zest, a little chili powder or paprika, or maybe a whole basil leaf.

My prosciutto-wrapped shrimp are cooked and ready to serve in just 6 to 8 minutes, giving you and your guests something wonderful to enjoy while the main course cooks. The apricot-mustard dip I include here adds yet another dimension of flavor, and your guests won't believe you when you tell them how easy it was to make.

Grilled Prosciutto Wrapped Shrimp with Apricot Mustard Sauce Recipe

Serves 8 to 16

Apricot Mustard Sauce Ingredients

8 dried apricot halves

2 cups orange juice

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1 teaspoon lemon juice

Salt

White pepper

2 fresh sage leaves

1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley

Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp Ingredients

16 jumbo fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail fins left on

16 thin slices Prosciutto

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Recipe Preparation

First, make the Apricot Mustard Sauce.

Put the dried apricots and orange juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the apricots are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool for about 30 minutes. Put the apricots, orange juice, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, and sage leaves in a blender and season lightly with salt and white pepper. Blend until smooth. Add the whole grain mustard and parsley and blend briefly just until combined, about 3 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside, or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to three days.

If you're using bamboo or wooden skewers for the shrimp, fill a shallow baking dish with cold water. Put 16 short skewers, each about 6 inches long, in the water to soak for at least 2 hours before assembling and cooking the shrimp.

Prepare a fire in an outdoor grill or preheat an indoor grill or the broiler.

Meanwhile, drain the soaked skewers, if necessary. Place a shrimp on a work surface curved side up and press down gently with one hand to flatten the shrimp into a straight line. While holding the shrimp down in this way, insert the tip of the skewer into its tail end and continue to push the skewer through the middle of the shrimp all along its length until the tip comes out the head end. This will keep the shrimp straight during cooking. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.

Place a slice of prosciutto on the work surface. Place a skewered shrimp across one narrow end of the slice and then roll the shrimp up in the prosciutto to enclose it completely in 2 layers of the ham. Trim any ragged edges and press the prosciutto along the seams to seal it around the shrimp. Repeat with the remaining shrimp and prosciutto. Put the shrimp skewers on a plate, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until cooking time.

Brush the prosciutto-wrapped shrimp all over with the olive oil. Put them on the grill and cook, turning them frequently, until the prosciutto is crisply browned and the shrimp wrapped inside are plump and pink, 6 to 8 minutes.

Arrange the shrimp on a platter and pass them with a bowl of the apricot sauce for dipping or for spooning over the shrimp.

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