The book of shrimp

Last night I made Crunchy Shrimp, also knows as sesame-orange shrimp, from an old issue of Everyday Food. Shrimp is America’s most popular seafood, so there’s a ton of misinformation about it, possibly pushed by unscrupulous shrimp-brokers. Okay, I have no evidence for that, but “unscrupulous shrimp brokers” conjures up a great image, doesn’t it?

The worst shrimp myth is that all shrimp are the same. The second worst shrimp myth is that “black tiger” shrimp are the best kind. So here’s a two-minute shrimp primer. If it helps, picture me as a guy dressed up in a six-foot shrimp costume and making hilarious jokes about how “jumbo shrimp” is an oxymoron.

  • Fresh shrimp, as in never-frozen, is extremely rare outside the gulf region. Occasionally we get it in Seattle at Mutual Fish, flown in from the gulf. It’s worth buying and cooking it the same day, if you see it.

  • Since nearly all shrimp is frozen at sea, you should buy it frozen, too, and defrost it at home. Until a few years ago this meant buying a solid block of frozen shrimp in ice. Luckily, this is no longer the case, and you can get excellent individually quick-frozen (IQF) shrimp in one- or two-pound plastic bags.

  • Generally, the best species of shrimp are Mexican and Gulf Whites. If what you’re buying isn’t labeled “black tiger,” it’s probably some kind of white shrimp and should be fine. Not that black tiger are necessarily bad; the whites are just better.

  • Look at the ingredients on the bag. It should read “shrimp, salt.” Don’t buy shrimp preserved with sodium tripolyphosphate (STP). It’s gross. The easiest way to avoid it is to buy shrimp at Whole Foods or another place that is dogmatically against preservatives.

  • Peel-on shrimp have more flavor. And peeling shrimp is really fun, one of the most enjoyable menial kitchen tasks. Of course, I say this never having worked in a restaurant. I’m sure if I’d been nicknamed “shrimp guy” at some point I’d feel different. Actually, there are many good reasons not to be nicknamed “shrimp guy.”

  • Frozen shrimp can be quickly defrosted in the sink. Toss them in a colander and run cold water over them for ten minutes, rearranging them occasionally. Then peel.

Finally, don’t overcook your shrimp. I tend to buy shrimp in the 21-25 or 26-30 size (meaning number of shrimp per pound), and they cook fully in two or three minutes at the absolute most.

Last week on Top Chef, Harold made tom kha goong (Thai coconut milk and shrimp soup) to be reheated the next day in the microwave. He put the shrimp in raw, figuring the hot broth would cook them sufficiently when reheated. The gamble paid off–he was at the winners’ table at the end of the show, although Tiffani and her escolar dish took the crown.

Tiffani is so mean!

11 thoughts on “The book of shrimp

  1. L

    Unscrupulous shrimp brokers – those are those guys I see with the trucks right off of I-5 heading north that are selling 100 “fresh” shrimp for $6, right?

  2. mamster Post author

    Is this a real thing? It sure sounds shady, like maybe they’re defrosted shrimp that didn’t sell yesterday.

  3. Lauren

    Hey! I made a shrimp dish for dinner last night too. But I was cursing the entire time I had to peel the shrimp. It’s one of my least favorite jobs in the kitchen.

    Oh, and Tiffani may be mean, but she’s honest so I cut her slack for it. And I have the biggest crush on Harold so whatever he wants to make is fine by me!

  4. mamster Post author

    Harold is awesome. I think he’s going all the way. What shrimp dish did you make, Lauren?

  5. Lauren

    It was a quick shrimp arrabiata recipe out of Cooking Light. It was pretty good but the problem with “quick” recipes is that the flavors don’t have enough time to develop. The tomatoes could have cooked much longer to make it a better dish.

  6. Harini

    Are you planning to cook babbo salmon and paprika potatoes? I see a list on the right corner of the website – not sure if it is yours.

    If it yes, could you please share your recipe – it sounds so delicious:)

    Thanks Harini

  7. mamster Post author

    The paprika potatoes are from Fine Cooking, but you don’t need a recipe: dice some Yukon Golds, saute them in duck fat or lard until crispy, sprinkle with Spanish paprika.

    The salmon recipe is one I adapted from (duh) the Babbo cookbook. Mainly I adapted it by getting rid of the cedar plank part, since I don’t have one. I’ve published the recipe previously, right here.

    And I’m working on a big post about the “upcoming dinners” feature, which will probably appear on Saturday.

  8. Neil

    OK, so we all want Harold’s phone number. I assume we can also all agree (including all the pastry cooks in our kitchen) that Steven is a complete dick?

  9. mamster Post author

    Presumably he was hired to be a big dick, and he is fulfilling the position admirably. The great thing is that you know at this point he is 100% sure that he’s going to win, and everyone else knows that he isn’t.

    Oh, and I’m surprised there’s no product placement for Stephen’s brand of mousse.

  10. Harini

    Thanks for the help with the recipe. And I see you have the post on the upcoming dinners up. Thanks!

  11. Kathy Ramsey

    I find Stephen maddening, but quite entertaining. I think the “tool” of the show has turned out to be Tom Colicchio, with all of his sneering and eye-rolling.

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