Gail Simmons’s  jerk shrimp from Bringing it Home, but make it lettuce cups.

Jerk shrimp lettuce cups

The mark of a good cookbook to me is how much I use it, and I use Gail’s Bringing it Home a lot. I love how much it covers, from breakfast and brunch to fun party snacks and noodle dishes, and I also love how conversational the headnotes that precede each recipe. It’s easy to hear Gail herself describe these dishes (though having watched Top Chef for 19 seasons certainly helps with that) and it makes you want to start cooking them as soon as possible.

Her jerk shrimp, a dish that she presents as a roll but can easily be converted into a topping for crostini or a filling for a lettuce cup, is one I always enjoy remaking and I don’t know why I haven’t written about it in this space. Better late than never, I guess. It’s spicy, it’s simple, and it’s a really easy way to make something that will wow your guests or even yourself on a random weekday night. 

As we are happily, officially in springtime, my thoughts always go to lighter meals that cook quickly, and this will be going into my regular rotation more often.

Jerk shrimp lettuce cups

Lightly adapted from Bringing it Home by Gail Simmons

Serves 2 hungry people as a meal or 4 as a starter

  • 2 tsp olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 fat scallions
  • ¼ tsp ground allspice
  • 3 TB ginger paste or chopped peeled ginger
  • 3 roasted garlic cloves
  • 1 TB fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 habanero of Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 2 TB plus two tsp fresh lime juice (from 2-3 limes)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s
  • 6-8 leaves of butter lettuce, washed and dried

Toss the shrimp with a teaspoon of the olive oil and ½ of a teaspoon of both salt and pepper. and heat a grill pan or cast iron skillet on high heat. Sear the shrimp until the shrimp is pink and opaque, about 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove to a plate and let them cool before chopping it roughly.

Toss four of the scallions with the other teaspoon of olive oil and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Place them on the grill pan and let them cook until they have taken on some color, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and set aside to cool.

Slice the remaining scallion on the bias and set aside for the garnish.

In a food processor, combine the grilled scallions, allspice, ginger (or ginger paste), roasted garlic, habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper, and lime juice and season with ½ teaspoon of salt. Pulse until everything forms a thick paste, and then transfer the mixture to a larger mixing bowl. Add the shrimp and the mayonnaise and stir well to combine, seasoning with more salt if needed.

Arrange the lettuce cups on plates and spoon the jerk shrimp into each leaf. Garnish with the scallions and serve immediately.

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