Spicy caramelized shrimp is the recipe for our eighth installment of the Sous Chef Series. Justine Kelly, the chef de cuisine at Charles Phan's The Slanted Door in San Francisco, uses an unparalleled (not to mention easy to make and store) caramel sauce as a base for this flavorful shrimp dish. A classic Vietnamese meal, it's an exercise in harmony: The sweet palm sugar mingles with the intensity of the fish sauce, as fresh lemongrass, garlic and ginger further elevate the richly seasoned shrimp. The result is a dish layered with flavors that needs only a simple accompaniment of steamed rice to soak up the complex sauce.
Yield: 6 servings
1. If using head-on shrimp, use scissors to remove the sharp spikes at the tail and in the center of the head. Cut off the eyes and discard. Separate the head from the body and set the heads aside. Peel each shrimp body, removing the tail, then devein. Sprinkle with pepper and set aside.
2. Make the caramel sauce: In a large saucepan set over medium-low heat, gently melt the sugar, stirring frequently, until the sugar is lump-free, completely melted and just beginning to boil, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and very slowly stir in the fish sauce (it will bubble up).
3. In a large, high-sided skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the shallots, chiles and reserved shrimp heads (if using) and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the lemongrass, garlic and ginger and cook for 1 minute longer. Stir in the chicken stock and ½ cup of the hot caramel sauce. (Leftover sauce can be refrigerated for several months.)
4. Add the shrimp to the pan and toss to coat. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until the shrimp are bright pink, about 6 minutes. Transfer to a platter and serve immediately, accompanied by the steamed rice.Download This Recipe