Buttery grilled shrimp with blistered fresh green beans is one of those meals that amazes because it’s so quick, yet delicious AND low carb! Just substitute ghee for the butter, and it’s paleo-compliant as well. This meal is ridiculously simple to prepare, so it feels more like a technique than a recipe. That’s because, once you know the basics, you can change up the seasonings and veggies to suit your taste, no recipe needed.
Keeping with our Low Carb KISS theme, I’m sharing a dinner I made recently while traveling in our RV. Up in Skagit County, on the northern coast of Washington State, the local farmers markets are amazing and loaded with culinary inspiration. Green beans are at their peak this time of year, and they were calling my name last Saturday when I was visiting the Anacortes Farmer’s Market. While we had been enjoying the abundant local fresh seafood, I happened to have a bag of shrimp in the freezer that I wanted to use up, which led me to this simple low carb menu.
Shrimp is hubby Dale’s favorite food, bar none, so I pretty much always have some sort of shrimp in the freezer. Not surprisingly, after 30 years of marriage, I can make perfectly-cooked shrimp in my sleep. With a grill on a sunny summer’s day, it doesn’t get any easier. There are a few tricks to making perfectly-grilled shrimp (which I will share, of course), but it’s pretty straightforward. So, if you’re not a pro at grilling shrimp, no worries. You’ve got this.
Green beans, in fact nearly all vegetables, are phenomenal when grilled. The heat caramelizes the natural sugars in the veggies and brings out a slightly sweet, smoky flavor. Heaven! The thing about cooking small items (such as shrimp and most veggies) on the grill is that they want to slide through the grates. Using a grill topper pan is a frustration-saver. A sturdy one that won’t warp from high heat, plus rimmed on three sides with handles, will work. If it’s not rimmed on three sides, food will get pushed off the pan (even if you’re careful, trust me!).
Grill topper pans come in various shapes, some non-stick. I happen to have a relatively inexpensive non-stick one on the RV, but I have a regular stainless still one at home, similar to this one from Weber (which is currently top-rated by Cooks Illustrated). Honestly, because I oil food well before grilling it, I find that I don’t really need non-stick capability. Once my non-stick version wears out, I plan to replace it with the Weber product.
As far as the grill itself goes, I use a propane gas version, both at home and in the RV. However, the technique is exactly the same on a charcoal grill. The remaining critical tool is a set of long-handled tongs for turning the shrimp and green beans, as well as transferring them to serving dishes. That way, I can let the topper pan cool before handling. You could always try to remove the topper pan with mitts, but it sounds like an accident waiting to happen to me! But then, I’m a bit on the clumsy side.
Now that I’ve addressed the equipment, let’s get back to the shrimp. If you live in an area where fresh shrimp is available, use it! That’s often not the case where I live, however, so I rely on the IQF (individually quick frozen) variety. If you’re not sure how to choose shrimp, here are a few good pointers from thekitchen.com. I generally purchase large shrimp (21 to 25 count per pound), because they’re big enough to caramelize well without overcooking, but not as expensive as the jumbo-size.
The tricky part of getting decent caramelization on shrimp is to not overcook them in the process. Here are a few tips:
- The grill and topper pan should be screaming hot. I heat the grill over high (lid closed) for at least 10 minutes before I add the topper pan. It’s thin, so 2-3 minutes on the hot grill (with the lid closed) should do it.
- The shrimp should be very cold, so the interior does not cook as quickly.
- There should be as little moisture on the surface of the shrimp as possible. Moisture will cause the shrimp to steam and they will cook before they can carmelize.
- Spread the shrimp out, so they are not touching. This also helps inhibit steaming for better browning.
- It’s difficult to achieve carmelization on both sides of the shrimp without overcooking them, so the first side should get the majority of cooking time and the reverse will get just enough time to finish cooking the shrimp and no more. You will get more flavor from good browning on one side, rather than very little on both sides. This technique is also good for scallops, which have similar challenges as shrimp. Some chefs will put a little sugar on their shrimp and scallops to boost caramelization. I don’t choose to do this for two reasons: (1) I don’t want to add sugar where it’s not needed; and (2) shrimp and scallops have enough natural sweetness without adding any more.
- How do you know when shrimp is done? That’s the final tricky part because shrimp is ususally done before you think it is! I look for the color of the shrimp to go from a translucent grey to an opaque white and pink. Once the grey color is gone, I pull them from the heat. (They will continue to cook slightly, also know as ‘carry over cooking’). The cooking time will vary based on the size of the shrimp and the intensity of the heat of your grill. I find that about 2 minutes (lid closed) on the first side yields good caramelization before turning. However, if you need to let them go a little longer, do so. Just don’t walk away from the grill! Check them every minute or so. Now, if the shrimp appears done by the time you acheive good browning on the first side, then you’re done. Don’t turn them, just pull them off the heat. Again, the goal is to achieve some caramelization, while not overcooking. If you think they may be done, but you’re not sure, they probably are!
Before prepping, I gather two covered serving dishes for the shrimp and green beans. I use one to prep the green beans and re-use it for serving them. I add the butter to the second serving dish, which will hold the hot shrimp off the grill. The cooked shrimp will melt the butter. I toss just before serving to coat the shrimp in that lovely butter and garnish with fresh herbs, usually chives.
Just before grilling, toss the shrimp and green beans separately with a generous amount of healthy, heat-stable oil. My go-to is avocado oil. This not only helps prevent sticking, it adds fat and flavor. Remember, we want to add good fat, especially when the food is naturally lean. Once they’re coated in avocado oil, I add the seasonings and toss again to distribute evenly.
- For the shrimp, I use Old Bay Seasoning. I learned to cook seafood from my grandmother, who was from New England, and it nearly always involved Old Bay Seasoning. However, if you don’t like it or don’t have it on hand, then use whatever other seasoning you’d prefer (perhaps lemon pepper?), or even just plain salt and pepper. I don’t add salt and pepper when I use Old Bay because it already has it and I don’t want the shrimp to be too salty.
- For seasoning the green beans, I use a dried herb blend that also has garlic powder, salt, and pepper, but if you’re seasoning doesn’t contain salt, go ahead and add some. I always try to make sure that savory food is at least lightly salted before cooking, because it adds a layer of flavor that simply isn’t possible by waiting to add salt until after the food is cooked.
I grill the green beans first, transfer them to their serving dish, and cover. Then I move on immediately to grilling the shrimp, which will be finished in less than 5 minutes. The green beans will still be warm and dinner is served! The meal is perfect as is, accompanied by lemon wedges, for a burst of bright acid. If you’re into sauces, as I am, the shrimp is also delicious with a dollop of low carb tartar sauce or low carb cocktail sauce. I also happen to love toasted, chopped almonds on my green beans, so throw those on if you’d like.
If you have any leftovers, you’ll want to use them up the following day for best results. You can reheat them gently, or toss them together with a low carb vinaigrette, as I do, for a refreshing chilled salad.
Nothing says summer like grilled seafood and veggies fresh from the farmers market. It’s fast, it’s healthy, and it’s just plain delicious. Get it while the getting is good!
- 1 ounce / 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 pound fresh green beans
- 1 pound large shrimp (I use 21/25), peeled, deveined, tail on or off
- 2 tablespoon avocado oil, divided
- 1-2 teaspoons dried herb blend, more or less to taste (optional)
- fine sea salt and ground pepper, to taste
- 2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
- Lemon wedges for serving (optional)
- Minced fresh chives for garnish (optional)
- Toasted, chopped almonds for garnish (optional)
- Low Carb Tartar Sauce and/or Low Sugar Cocktail Sauce (optional)
- Gather two covered serving dishes that will hold the shrimp and green beans separately. Place the butter in the bottom of one dish for the shrimp, and set aside.
- Preheat your grill over hight heat while you prep the green beans and shrimp.
- Trim the stem ends of the green beans, place in a colander or salad spinner. Rinse and drain the beans thoroughly. Pat away any remaining moisture with paper towels. Transfer green beans to the empty serving dish. Add one tablespoon of avocado oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle over dried herb blend (if using) and toss to distribute seasoning evenly. Add salt and pepper, if needed. Set aside.
- Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels and transfer to a medium bowl. Add remaining avocado oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle over Old Bay Seasoning and toss to distribute spices evenly. Old Bay Seasoning has salt and pepper, so don't add any additional.
- Place the grill topper on the preheated clean grates and let heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Using tongs, place green beens in an even layer on the grill topper. Close the lid and let cook for 2 minutes. Lift the lid and check the green beans to see if the bottom of the beans are blistered and slightly charred in places. If not, continue to cook, covered, checking every minute or so. When the beans look good, turn them over and repeat until you achieve the desired doneness. Transfer to serving dish, cover, and set aside.
- Place the shrimp on the grill topper, spreading out so they're not touching to prevent steaming and encourage good caramelization. Close the lid and let cook for 2 minutes. Turn the shrimp, and let cook another minute or two, lid closed. You'll know the shrimp is done when the color changes from a translucent grey to opaque white and pink. Immediately transfer the shrimp to the serving dish and cover to keep warm. Just before serving, toss shrimp to coat with melted butter and sprinkle with chives, if using.
- Immediately serve shrimp and green beans, with lemon wedges, tartar sauce, and/or cocktail sauce as desired. Any leftovers are best used the next day. You can reheat gently, but I like to combine any leftover shrimp and green beans and toss with a low carb vinaigrette for a simple chilled salad.
*I use Living Cookbook 2015, along with package information and data from
www.nutritiondata.self.com, to calculate the nutritional information for my recipes. Thus, I can make no guarantees as to the accuracy.
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