We have talked about shrimp before, but as summer, and the real beginning of the shrimp season, approaches, it’s worth revisiting. It is one of the blessings of living on the Coast: having a great variety of fresh seafood, at reasonable prices, available most of the year. Fresh crabs, fish, and shrimp are hard to come by if you live in a big inland city, and I think we often forget how fortunate we are to enjoy such abundance.
I have to admit that one of my favorite ways to enjoy shrimp is fried. Frying gets a bad rap by those who do not follow the rules: maintain the correct temperature of the oil, do not overcrowd the pot, use clean oil, and do not overcook the shrimp. Its pretty simple, just follow the rules, OK? Fried shrimp are great on a po-boy, a seafood platter, and I have even had them served on top of a bowl of gumbo!
Sautéed shrimp are delicious as well and can be served with a Creole sauce (holy trinity plus tomatoes), a simple olive oil and garlic base, in red sauce and countless other ways. Sautéed shrimp are well paired with grits, rice or pasta, sautéed vegetables, sausage, bacon, and ham. There is so much you can do with this “fruit of the sea,” as Bubba Gump famously quipped, but I do have a new favorite.
Garlic Shrimp is a recipe I have adapted from a Vietnamese’s friend crawfish recipe. It is pretty simple but is spectacularly good. He boils his crawfish in a stock that is made with celery, red onions, oranges, jalapenos, garlic and a few seasonings (we talked about it in February). We have gotten complaisant in making stock for boiling and rely on commercially prepared seasonings which are mostly salt and really not very interesting at all. I am dubious about most prepared seasonings, stocks and recipe bases, and you should be as well. Don’t you think you can make a small batch of almost anything better than some big corporation can make a thousand gallons of at a time? I assure you, you can.
When you make homemade stock for boiling, take your time. Assemble the ingredients, simmer it until it has the flavor profile you want, then allow it to cool down completely. Heat it back up and you are ready to go. Add the shrimp, bring back to a boil for a few minutes, turn it off and add a bag of ice. One of the problems with boiling is it is so easy to overcook, then the shrimp become rubbery and tough. Shocking the simmering stock with ice stops the cooking process but allows the shrimp to absorb the flavors you have chosen.
But here is the cool part. When the shrimp are drained, toss them in copious amounts of garlic butter! To make it even better, slowly cook the butter till it starts to brown (beurre noisette to the French). It adds a delightful nutty flavor. Let them stand a while, but not too long, and serve with lots of French bread. Yes, yes, I know they are a mess to eat, but they are just amazing. Remember what the French say: if you want to make something better, add more butter.
See you next week.