Tea is one of those ingredients you don't often consider cooking with, and that's a shame, because it is a nearly effortless way to add or accentuate flavors.
Fruity teas are the most obvious choice, as they easily complement baked goods and fruit-based desserts.
For example, try poaching pears or apples in a blend of berry tea and honey, or use cooled fruit teas as some of the liquid in baked goods. Tea infusions are exceptional in smoothies.
Tea can lend itself to savory preparations, too. Finely ground black teas can be added to spice rubs and barbecue sauces. A handful of damp leaves also can be added to the wood chips used in smoking meats and seafood.
Brining is another option. This recipe calls for brining shrimp in an oolong tea to which salt and sugar have been added. The same brine would work just as well on poultry and pork.
The brining technique is simple. Bagged tea (loose tea leaves work fine, too, but the resulting tea must then be strained) is steeped in hot water. The tea bags are discarded, and salt and sugar are stirred in.
The brine is cooled to room temperature (a handful or two of ice can be added to cool it more quickly). Let shrimp sit in this brine for about 20 minutes, then it can be prepared as desired. Baking is easy, but grilling or stir-frying work fine, too.
The tea brine imbues the shrimp with a succulent flavor and tender texture (the salt helps the shrimp absorb and hold moisture). If the shrimp is too salty, cut back on the amount added to the brine, or give the shrimp a quick rinse in cool water after brining.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 main or 4 starter
1 1/2 cups water
3 bags oolong tea
1/2 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
2 cups ice
1 pound shrimp, veins (and, if desired, shells) removed
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
Heat oven to 450 degrees.
In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the water to a near boil. Remove the pan from the heat and add the tea bags. Steep for 5 minutes, or until the tea is dark and fragrant. Remove and discard the tea bags, then add the salt and sugar and stir until dissolved.
Add the ice and stir until melted and the tea mixture is cool.
Place the shrimp in a large bowl or zip-close plastic bag. Add the tea mixture, then cover or seal the bag and refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Drain the shrimp and return to the bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add the garlic. Toss to coat evenly. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and arrange in a single layer. Season with pepper. Bake for 8 minutes, or until shrimp are bright pink.