Do you remember the Bubba Gump recitation of all the things you can do with shrimp? It’s worth quoting again:
“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. There’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”
Shrimp are the fruit of the sea and much of the marine ecosystem depends on them as an important link in the food chain. I don’t think any humans would starve if the shrimp all swam south, but it should be a sad, sad day. I absolutely love shrimp.
Brown, pink and white shrimp are found in Mississippi waters, and opinion varies on which one is the most delicious, I don’t have a favorite, but I do insist that they are freshly caught, and not overcooked, and Gulf shrimp. Shrimp should be physically intact, no eyes, or antennae missing, the smell should be pleasant, as the salty sea, and should absolutely never smell fishy. Perhaps most importantly, get to know fishmonger, and if he is the honest dealer he should be, he will tell you when the shrimp were caught. Another good tip is to buy a shrimp shell on. Some folks think that the water blasting method that the processors use to shell shrimp also removes some flavor, and, shell on is easier to tell how old they are.
So, what’s your favorite way to prepare shrimp? Shrimp Creole, shrimp and grits, jambalaya, and shrimp and pasta are among my favorite. All four recipes, at least when I make them, start with the holy trinity (onions, bell pepper, and celery), and I almost always season with red pepper flakes and Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (there are others that are just as good, but Tony’s is the one I most often use).
Vegetables develop flavor the longer that they cook (think of raw onion, and on the other end of the scale, a caramelized onion prepared for French onion soup). Don’t rush the process, sauté them in plenty of butter or oil for at least 15 minutes.
Remember also to season judiciously. You’d be amazed at how much seasoning professional chefs use, especially anything salt based. I also suggest that you do not season all at once, but season, and taste, in layers.
You are probably getting tired of hearing me say it, but please, please do not overcook shrimp or any seafood for that matter. In a hot skillet, well oiled, and not overcrowd, shrimp will be completely done in less than two minutes.
Shrimp, sausage, and rice
1 cup of rice
2 cups of water
1 cup thick sliced smoked pork sausage
1 cup large, peeled shrimp
1 chopped large onion
1 large bell pepper chopped
½ cup chopped celery
1 chopped and seeded jalapeno
Tony’s and red pepper flakes
Combine rice and water and steam, lid on, for 20 minutes. Remove lid and fluff so the rice does not stick together. In a heavy bottom skillet, cast iron is best, sauté the sausage in a little oil until well browned. Remove and set aside. Season the shrimp, then turn the heat to high, and sauté the shrimp for just a minute, tossing often, now remove and set aside. Add the vegetables, reduce heat to medium-low, add more oil if necessary, season well, and cook the vegetables until reduced in volume for 30%. Combine the shrimp, sausage, vegetables, and rice. Serve hot and with Valentino hot sauce at the ready.