Michael Schulson, chef of several Asian-inflected restaurants in Philadelphia, makes simplicity sublime for his spring cooking.
Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey
Credit: Provided by MJS Restaurants

"Less is more a lot of the time," says Michael Schulson, chef of several Asian-inflected restaurants in Philadelphia, including the recently opened Double Knot. And as with much of Asian cooking, Schulson's approach is simple and clean.

"If you're cooking shrimp, you should taste the shrimp. If you're cooking vegetables, you want to taste the vegetables," he says. "Sugar snap peas and asparagus are so clean and delicious, and you don't want them masked by a lot of other flavorings."

"A lot of people have the tendency to overthink dishes like this," he says. The success of his shrimp satay (Indonesian-style grilled skewers) lies in two simple concepts: a unifying flavor base and a high-heat cooking technique that lends complex taste and texture. The dish has two main components: shrimp and spring vegetables. Schulson reserves some of the shrimp marinade to finish the vegetables, which melds the flavors of both. And because the veggies are pan-charred and the shrimp is fire-grilled, both pick up smoky complexity that intensifies the sauce.

"All the dishes I do try to strike a balance between sweet, salty, acidic, spiciness, and different textures," he explains. His satay is a master class in such disciplined deliciousness. Try his original version this month at Double Knot.

Grilled Shrimp Skewers with Charred Asparagus and Snap Peas
Hands-on: 18 min.
Total: 2 hr. 18 min.

Schulson reserves some marinade to serve as the sauce, saving time and uniting flavors. For extra charred flavor, cook the veggies in a cast-iron skillet directly on the grill instead of the stovetop.

1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons lower-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 teaspoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 cup sugar snap peas, trimmed and halved diagonally
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut diagonally into 1-inch pieces
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh basil leaves

1. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl. Place shrimp in a large bowl. Pour two-thirds of oil mixture over shrimp; toss to coat. Reserve remaining oil mixture. Chill shrimp mixture in refrigerator 2 hours.

2. Cook snap peas and asparagus in boiling water 45 seconds. Remove from pan. Immediately plunge into a bowl of ice water; drain well.

3. Preheat grill to medium-high heat.

4. Remove shrimp from marinade; discard marinade. Thread about 5 shrimp onto each of 4 skewers. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 3 minutes on each side or until shrimp are done.

5. Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat. Add canola oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add asparagus and peas; cook 3 minutes or until browned and lightly charred. Remove pan from heat. Add reserved olive oil mixture to asparagus mixture. Return pan to high heat; cook 30 seconds or until liquid almost evaporates. Sprinkle with salt and basil. Serve asparagus mixture with skewers.

SERVES 4 (serving size: about 5 shrimp and 1/2 cup asparagus mixture)
CALORIES 233; FAT 10g (sat 1.2g, mono 5.8g, poly 1.5g); PROTEIN 27g; CARB 9g; FIBER 3g; SUGARS 3g (est. added sugars 0g); CHOL 214mg; IRON 4mg; SODIUM 482mg; CALC 139mg