Piri-piri are incendiary little red peppers from Angola. The Porutguese can't get enough of them, so they keep bottles of Molho de Piri-piri (a sauce somewhat like Tabasco on the table alongside the salt and pepper, then sprinkle this liquid fire over virtually everything ? French fries, steamed greens, shellfish. Although I am not as much a fan of piri-piri sauce as the Portuguese, I must admit that Molho de Piri-piri, is the perfect dunk for shrimp prepared this way, a dish that has recently become a great specialty at a number of Lisbon's top restaurants. Note: Because piri-piri peppers are unobtainable here, I've substituted the more widely available long, slender, twisted cayenne pods. You can also use the scarlet New Mexico chiles, the tiny but explosive chile pequins, even the green jalapeno peppers. Just add them in stages, tasting as you go, so that the shrimp aren't so torrid they bring tears to your eyes.
- 2 pounds raw jumbo shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1 large garlic clove, peeled and crushed
- 2 medium bright-red cayenne peppers, cored and minced (leave the seeds in if you can take the heat they're where the peppers' heat is concentrated)
- 3/4 cup Molho de Piri-piri, recipe follows,, or mix 3/4 cup olive oil with 1 to 2 teaspoons liquid hot red pepper seasoning (depending on how hot you can stand things)
Place the shrimp, garlic, cayenne, and olive oil in a 9 by 9 by 2-inch baking dish and toss well; cover and marinate at least 24 hours in the refrigerator. When ready to cook, preheat the broiler. Lay the shrimp on a well-oiled broiler pan and brush generously with the marinade, and broil 2 minutes longer. Serve sizzling hot with little bowls of the dipping sauce (1 for each person). To cool the fire, accompany with a crisp green salad, chunks of good Portuguese bread and well-chilled vinho verde.
Variation: Camaroes Grelhados Piri-piri (Grilled Shrimp with Hot Red Peppers): Marinate the shrimp as directed. When ready to cook, build a hot charcoal fire and when the flames have died down, leaving white-hot coals, arrange the shrimp, not quite touching one another, on 4 to 6 well-oiled long metal skewers. Adjust the height of the grill so that it is about 6 inches above the coals, lay the skewers on the grill and cook about 6 minutes, turning often, and brushing with additional marinade. Serve with little bowls of Molho de Piri-piri.
Molho de Piri-Piri
(Hot Red Pepper Sauce)
2 to 6 cayenne chili peppers (or dried chili pequins), depending upon their hotness
1 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt
1 cup olive oil
1/3 cup cider vinegar
Stem the peppers and coarsely chop (include the seeds); place in a 1-pint shaker jar along with the salt, olive oil, and vinegar. Cover tight, shake well, then store at room temperature. The sauce will keep well for about a month. Shake the sauce every time you use it.
Note: For mellower, roast the peppers uncovered for 15 minutes at low heat (300 degrees F.)