ah shrimp...like most seafood - I love shrimp (I think the only seafood I don't particularly like is sea urchin). I especially love BIG shrimp (because size does matter) and FRESH shrimp. And the reason that I bring the subject up is that I have just placed an order for 10 pounds of Big, Fresh shrimp from the Kiwanis Club of Lynchburg. It is one of our two annual fund raisers - we sell shrimp and we sell lobsters. And this one is my favorite...because I don't have to murder anything. (yes, in order to enjoy a delicious lobster newberg I will happily send multiple lobsters to heaven)
After ordering my shrimp - I began to dream of all the ways I will prepare them. The first few pounds will never even hit the fridge. They will go from the boat - to the refrigerated truck - to my cooler - to the kitchen - to my table. And I am about 90% certain that my first dish will be scampi and cheese grits. This simple preparation of shrimp allows me to sample all the sweet goodness that is shrimp. How do I do it?
First things first - you have to clean them. I usually get comfortable at a table and clean 3 or 4 pounds. First I peel them - which I find immensely easier before they are cooked. Although the shells can contribute some shrimpy goodness to a dish - I can get the same effect by making shrimp stock with the shells later. The tools you will need to prep a few pounds of shrimp: a discard bowl for the shells, two clean bowls large enough to hold all the shrimp, a small bowl of water and a knife (I like a serrated knife, like a steak knife. Many chefs would disagree). To peel the shrimp, starting at the head end (where the head would be), slide your thumb between the 2 rows of legs and grab about 2/3 of one row, peel those away from you. This should take the legs, shell and the opposing row off. This would leave 2/3 of nekkid shrimp and 1/3 shell/tail/legs. Hold onto the nekkid shrimp part with one hand - squeeze the tail with the thumb and forefinger of the other hand. Gently pull the nekkid shrimp part and it will slide right out. That will leave empty shell in one hand and every bit of shrimpy goodness in the other hand. It takes a little bit of practice but soon you'll be able to peel a pound of shrimp in 10-15 minutes.
Keep going until you have one bowl full of nekkid shrimps and one bowl full of shells. Before you go on to the next shrimp prep step - put the shells in a pan and cover them in water and a sprinkle of salt. Bring it to a simmer (near boiling, but not boiling) on the stove. Go back to the shrimp.
Yes - you can skip the next step. But I think it is kind of gross to serve my friends and family shrimp that is not de-veined. Because that isn't really a vein. It's more like the colon. And friends don't feed friends shrimp poop.
It is a dead simple task - hold Mr. Shrimp in one hand, cut along the back with the knife, head end to tail end. You really only have to make the cut along about 75% of the shrimp. And you only have to make the cut about 1/4" deep. Use the tip of the knife and your thumb to bring the "vein" to the surface and pull it on out. Dip the knife, thumb into the bowl of water. The "vein" will sink to the bottom. Rinse the shrimp if it needs it. 99% of the time, the "vein" will not be damaged by the knife and the poop will not contaminate your shrimp. Pretty tough little "vein" there.
By the time you finish your de-veining...the shells will have given up all of their tasty goodness to the water and you can discard them. Catfish like to eat them, so I toss mine in the river. So now you have beautifully prepped shrimp and shrimp stock (strain the stock to get rid of stray legs...). And now you can make a little scampi. Combine the stock, 3 or 4 minced cloves of garlic, the juice of a lemon (maybe a little zest if you're feeling fancy), and a bit of salt and pepper (a splash of white wine if you like). Bring that to a boil and toss in the shrimp. When they are pink, they are done. DONE! Please don't overcook shrimp...it makes me sad.
Cheddar grits - make grits according to canister (quick grits are okay - instant grits are NOT. I'd rather eat shrimp poop.) and add cheddar till it just won't stir (I figure about 2 cups). Well, two caveats there...for a richer and creamier dish, use half water and half milk. Feeling adventurous with the cheese? Parmesan makes a nuttier flavor, goat cheese gives a nice tangy flavor, blue cheese alone would be pretty overpowering... And for goodness sake - SALT THE WATER!!!
If this has made you long for some tasty shrimp of your own...there is still time to get me shrimp orders!! Call me, email me, facebook me, text me, send up smoke signals. But if I don't know by midnight on Wednesday, August 8...you'll have to revert to using those frozen suckers from foreign lands. Wouldn't you rather have some great Atlantic shrimp to call your very own? $10/pound and the proceeds go to support Kiwanis community projects like building playgrounds and stuff. It's a win-win.
And think of all the wonderful shrimp dishes you could make...You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey'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...