If you love sweetness checked by a little heat, then a jar of honey spiked with chilies is a very good thing.
It’s a little like hot pepper jelly, that old Southern staple, except the honey gives a more floral, caramelized character, whereas the jelly is just hot and sweet.
But the overall effect is the same: The chili keeps the honey from becoming cloying, the honey tones down the brashness of the chili, and together you get something that’s a lot more complex than the merging of only two ingredients would suggest.
You can buy jars of so-called hot honey (usually honey mixed with cayenne, with a little vinegar for tang) at large supermarkets.
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But it’s also incredibly easy to make yourself. Just mix together a good full-flavored honey with whatever chili-based product you have on hand (ground chili powder, crushed chili flakes, dashes of chili sauce), adding the hot stuff slowly and to taste. And if you overdo it, a little more honey will smooth things out. You’re looking for a balance of zingy and mellow, sweet and fiery.
Then drizzle it wherever its contrasting sensations will make you happy. I love it just as much in peanut butter sandwiches and on top of my yogurt as I do with my fried chicken. And it’s excellent with seafood, particularly strongly flavored fish like salmon, swordfish and tuna, and succulent pink shrimp.
Of them all, shrimp has the distinct advantage of cooking in five minutes or less, making this one of the fastest, easiest and most flavor-packed dinners you can make on any given weeknight. Or try it in place of shrimp cocktail as an hors d’oeuvre at a party, using mayonnaise or tartar sauce for dunking.
In addition to the hot honey here, I also add lime zest, grated ginger and some garlic to punch things up, with a little butter for creamy richness.
If you’ve planned ahead, you could let the shrimp marinate in the honey mixture for an hour or two in the fridge before cooking. But it’s not at all necessary, so skip it if you’re throwing this together at the last minute.
Then set the table, grab some bread and open the wine while the shrimp roasts. In the five minutes they take to cook, that’s actually all you’ll have time to do. And that’s actually all you’ll really need.
Hot Honey Shrimp
1 tablespoon honey
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane or finely minced
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pound cleaned extra-large shrimp, patted very dry with paper towels
1 tablespoon very cold butter, cubed
Lime wedges, for serving
1 jalapeño, halved, seeded and very thinly sliced, for serving
1 tablespoon chives or scallion greens, finely chopped, for serving
Mayonnaise, for serving (optional)
Heat oven to 500 degrees.
In a medium bowl, combine honey, cayenne, lime zest, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper. Toss in shrimp to coat.
Spread shrimp on a large rimmed baking sheet and dot with butter. Roast until shrimp is pink and opaque, but before the edges have started to curl, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle generously with fresh lime juice and toss with jalapeños and chives or scallions. Serve with mayonnaise if you like.
Yield: 2 servings