It’s easy to become complacent with the abundance of seafood we have on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Shrimp, fish, oysters and crab are almost always available, and at reasonable prices. I love them all and enjoy them as often as I can.
The introduction of off-bottom oyster farming has been a big addition to the glory of the Mississippi Sound oyster. Mississippi oysters are being enjoyed all over the country now and have built quite a reputation. They are so delicious that the first time Beau Rivage Executive Chef Kristen Wade tried them he pronounced them “Biloxi butter,” and the name has stuck. Off-bottom oysters are raised in a cage that is suspended in the water, near the surface. They have no predators, are not sitting in the mud, and are fat, healthy, and just delicious. They are a little pricy, but I assure you they are worth every penny. To enjoy them to their fullest, eat them raw and don’t cover up their flavor with a heavy sauce or toppings.
There is so much seafood to choose from, it’s hard to write about all of it in this short space. Who doesn’t love crab cakes or a crab salad? And nothing beats a whole roasted fish. But my true love is Gulf fresh shrimp! Big, fat, and sweet. How could you not love them? Perhaps the most popular way to serve them is boiled. Interestingly enough, it is a recipe we borrowed from the French, court bouillon, which is nothing more than a way to quickly cook seafood in a seasoned broth. The Cajuns cook redfish in a tomato sauce, which they call redfish court bouillon.
Boiling shrimp in a highly seasoned stock is a good idea, but, please, do not overcook them! When overcooked they become tough and rubbery and are completely uninteresting. Season the stock, get it up to a good boil and let it go for 10 minutes or so, add the shrimp, but do not overfill the pot, bring back to a boil, and just as soon as the water is really rolling, take them out and put them in an ice bath.
I also love fried shrimp, sautéed shrimp in garlic butter, especially really big shrimp, with the shells left on, so they remain juicy. But the same rule applies, please, please, please do not overcook them, and please do not cover up their delicious flavor with a too spicy topping or sauce.