Harissa Shrimp

I made my way over to the World Spice Merchants a few weeks ago in downtown Seattle.  This market was an amazing find of no frills, neatly organized aromatic pleasures. They had sample jars well organized about the place, with a well-rounded reference area of books to browse and purchase. I took my time looking at each and every spice they had. I was a bit star struck by it all but finally narrowed down my selection, made my purchase and went on my way. I was able to get out of there in under an hour; which in my book is some kind of record for a place like that. One of the treasures I came home with was a spice mix known as Harrisa. This is a spice blend from Northern Africa that Brian and I have had before and really enjoy. It can sometimes consist of any number of spices but at the World Spice Merchants theirs consist of cumin, coriander, caraway, guajillo chiles, smoked paprika and garlic. It smelled wonderful and I was waiting until I was struck with the right cooking inspiration to finally crack open the bag. Meanwhile Brian and I have both been working our tuchis off! Brian has been working late hours and weekends for a deadline he is on at work, and my coworker (and the only other pastry chef I work with) broke her ankle a few weeks ago. Yes, everyone there has been helping out; but it has been a bit hectic to say the least. I was able to get a day off last week, and Brian reassured me he would make it home for dinner. I think a nice home cooked meal for both of us was in order.

I was thinking of what to make special for Brian when I glanced over at the jar of Preserved Lemons on my shelf. I took a stab at making them this year and they turned out real well. I got the recipe from David Lebovitz, and it is a Moroccan recipe. At that moment I had a light bulb go off! Moroccan Preserved Lemons + Harrisa spice…All Northern African flavors, I know I am on to something.  I took a drive over to the fish market and picked up some wildly caught shrimp. And when I got home I prepped this and cooked them as Brian came in the door. Simple and flavorful, Brian was grinning as he ate them up. I definitely think you should give it a try, the harrisa spice is intoxicating in its smell as well as your tongue; the preserved lemon brightens it all up and makes it a bit livelier. In case you are wondering I left the shells and legs on the shrimp for two reasons. One was for the flavor it would lend along with how it would capture the bits of sauce and the other was to eat with your hands just like they do in Morocco. I am sure you will be pleased. Live a little and give it a try!


Harissa Shrimp


Harrisa Spiced Shrimp (Serves 4) 

2 oz of Butter (unsalted), room temperature

3 tbsp of Harrisa Spice

1-2 preserved lemons (pulp removed) rinsed & finely chopped

2 lbs of shrimp (heads removed, but shells and legs in tact)

½ cup of dry white wine

Fresh Black Pepper to taste

First, rinse and pick over your shrimp. Set them aside in your refrigerator until you are ready to use them.  Also, in a bowl mix your butter and Harrisa spice into a pasty compound. Set that aside to let the flavors marry together.

Next, place a large frying pan over high heat.  Once your pan is heated through add in the compound butter you made. Let it all melt in the pan and add the preserved lemon. Once the compound butter and preserved lemons are simmering toss in your shrimp. Constantly stirring them and tossing it all together.

Finally, add in your wine and continue to toss your shrimp around coating them in the whole mixture. You want to keep this up until they are all evenly pink and starting to curl. Place them in a bowl to serve with a spoon to scoop up the lovely sauce you created. Sprinkle it with fresh black pepper to taste.