Shrimp is America’s favorite shellfish. It’s sales far exceed the sale of any other crustacean across the nation. Most of the shrimp in the United States comes from bordering waters, notably, the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the Gulf Coast. Some have said, the colder the water, the smaller and more succulent the shrimp. You can find many varieties and colors from pink to gray and bright red to name a few. A heat-caused chemical change cause most shells to change color (such as, pale pink to bright red) when cooked. They are marketed by size, which determines the approximate number per pound, an example being, small, 36-45 per pound to jumbo, 11-15 per pound. The size you choose depends on your plans for preparation. This is often a matter for the cook to decide but I prefer a larger size like jumbo for grilling and perhaps medium or large for use in a soup or stew like jambalaya. For grinding into fish cakes, small size work just fine.
Perhaps it is affordability compared to say, lobster or crab that makes them so popular, but I think it has much to do with its versatility. They can be prepared in a wide variety of ways, including but not limited to boiled, fried, grilled, stewed and poached. I always buy my shrimp raw (fresh if available) with the shell on (it should smell like the sea and not ammonia, a sign of lack of freshness). Remember, most shrimp is previously frozen, so if you plan to freeze it, you are better off buying it frozen and not thawed. Be sure to ask your fish monger if it has be previously frozen and if so, when was it defrosted. I urge you to never buy shrimp pre-cooked unless you plan on eating them cold and even then you run a high risk of having them be over-cooked. We have all had them, right? You know what I am talking about, texture like a rubber band with little or no flavor. That is what happens when overcooked. This little crustacean, takes about 2 minutes to cook to perfection. So why risk it? The reason for buying shell on is simple. There is a lot of flavor in the shell! Even if you peel them beforehand as in the following recipe, you can easily save the shells in the freezer until you have enough to make a simple and delicious stock suitable for many purposes such as, chowder, stew, or risotto to name a few. It is an easy and not a terribly time consuming process. There are many recipes available online.
Then there is the question of to devein or not to devein. Professional chefs would almost always recommend deveining unless the variety is very small. Some people bypass this step but truthfully, I find its presence undesirable and unsightly. In addition, the larger the shrimp the better chance of grit. It is, after all, the digestive track or as my daughter refers to it, the poop shoot. It is an easy process to remove it. Starting at the head end, run a small sharp knife, blade facing up, through the back and down to the tail. Scrape out the vein and rinse under cold water. this also makes the process of peeling (if you plan on doing it) much easier.
That said, let’s get onto the recipe of today.
DIJON SHRIMP Serves 2
Adapted from a recipe published in the Miami Herald
1 lb. fresh raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used extra-large)
1t extra-virgin olive oil
½ c dry sherry or bourbon
5T Dijon mustard
1T heavy cream
Freshly ground black pepper
2T chives, snipped or thinly sliced scallions
- Rinse, drain and pat shrimp dry. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat with the oil. Add the shrimp and sauté for 1 minute. Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.
- Add the sherry to the pan and simmer for 30 seconds. Add the mustard and cream. Mix well and taste.
- Return the shrimp to the pan and cook for additional 30 seconds. Season with pepper to taste.
- To serve, spoon shrimp over “couscous w/ peas” and sprinkle with chives or scallions.
COUSCOUS w/ SWEET PEAS Makes 2 servings
¾ c water
2t extra-virgin olive oil
½ c couscous
1c fresh or frozen peas
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Bring water to boil, add the olive oil and the couscous.
- Remove from heat, add the peas and cover. Allow to sit for 5 minutes.
- Fluff with a fork and season to taste w/ salt and pepper.
- Place lid back on pan to keep warm until ready to serve.
A light tangy mustard sauce over sweet succulent shrimp is a simple but highly flavorful dish that will brighten up any dinner. Adding one tablespoon of cream to the sauce gives it an added dimension and adds very little fat, but it could be eliminated if you wish. Couscous is optional of course but it does pair well and with the addition of the sweet peas, you have a complete meal. Don’t care for couscous or looking for gluten-free? Try a whole grain rice mixture or polenta. You are going to love this as a weeknight meal or for your next dinner party.
Thanksgiving is coming up in a few days and everywhere you turn are recipes or advice on how to prepare the perfect meal. Advice? I could give you recipes and cooking tips but the most important thing I have to share is, “Don’t forget the love!” It is what it is all about, gratitude for each other, the bounty we are blessed to share and remembering those less fortunate. So I wish you all a joyous Thanksgiving! I will be spreading the love, one dish at a time at my house and hope you will be feeling it wherever you are. Sending love from my table to yours.