Some of us live from shrimp season to shrimp season. The recreational shrimping season that has just started means we will be in shrimp heaven from now until the end of the year, the last time to stock the freezer until next spring's catch starts.
From head to tail
The trend in many places is to serve shrimp with the head and the shell on, letting the diners snap and shell as they eat. It certainly looks more dramatic, and true aficionados love sucking the juices from the head of shrimp as much as they do from crawfish. Others would be happy if they never saw a shrimp head, much less ate one.The head of a shrimp has a mean looking “horn” on top, a sharp spear poking out. Although it is easier to remove a shrimp shell when the shrimp is cooked, the horn must still be dealt with using care. Avoid the horn and twist the head back and off.The same aficionados of shrimp heads may enjoy eating the shell of shrimp, particularly of tiny shrimp. Most of us, however, are happy to snip up the back vein of the shell and peel off the shell. The vein is edible, although unappetizing to some, and can be left on or removed before eating.Nathalie Dupree
If there is one thing better than catching and eating your own shrimp, it is eating someone else's just-caught shrimp.
Shrimp are always better cooked in the shell, even with their heads on. Why head on? If a shrimp still has its head and feelers on, it is still fresh or was frozen when fresh, as the feelers drop off within a few hours.
The head weighs about one-third of the shrimp, which should be reckoned both in pricing and in cooking.
While the weather is still vacillating between hot and possibly cool in the early evenings, grilling is a good option, serving the shrimp hot on top of a cold salad, with rice or vegetables. Grilling is one time the larger the shrimp, the better.
Skewering them on sturdy rosemary branches, stripped of the herb, holds them together, making them easier to turn and giving them a dramatic presentation.
If a basket-type grill container is available, small shrimp will stay on the rosemary stem, not in the fire. A basket is not necessary for a stove-top grill.
Nathalie Dupree is the author of 11 cookbooks, most recently “Southern Biscuits.” She lives in Charleston and may be reached through Nathaliedupree.com.
Sweet and Savory Grilled Shrimp Salad
4 stems of rosemary or 4 skewers
11/2 pounds raw shrimp, preferably in the shell
Fresh figs, peach wedges, pineapple chunks, and/or whole cherry tomatoes
Oil, cook's preference, for brushing
4 cups washed salad greens, such as Bibb lettuce, red lettuce or arugula
1/2 cup whole herbs, such as basil, lemon balm, oregano, or thyme (optional)
1/2 cup lightly toasted pecan halves or quarters
1 cup Parmesan or other cheese, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
1/3 cup sherry or other wine vinegar
1 cup olive or other oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Freshly ground pepper
Strip the stems of rosemary to make skewers. Soak in a bowl of water for 10 or 15 minutes as you would wooden skewers. Alternate the shrimp and any of the fruit or tomatoes on the skewers.
Heat the grill. Brush shrimp and other ingredients lightly with oil and move to grill. Grill a few minutes on each side, until the shrimp are cooked and the shell has turned color. Remove from the grill.
Meanwhile, wash and dry the salad greens. When ready to serve, toss greens with the herbs, pecans and cheese.
To make the vinaigrette, whisk the vinegar and olive oil with the Dijon mustard. Toss the salad with some of the vinaigrette.
Taste and season with salt and freshly ground pepper as needed. Divide among plates or move to a platter. Top with the warm shrimp skewers and serve.
Grilled Shrimp, Pepper and Rice Salad
Grilled shrimp stands up well to the red bell pepper in this salad, the celery adding a welcome crunch.
1 pound grilled shrimp, chopped if large
4 cups cooked and cooled white rice
1 cup chopped red or green bell pepper
1 cup chopped celery
11/2 to 2 cups mayonnaise
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Freshly ground black pepper
Toss the shrimp, rice, bell pepper and celery in a large bowl.
Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon juice and stir carefully into the shrimp mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Cover and refrigerate for several hours or up to 1 day.
Shrimp and Pea Salad
1 cup baby spinach or other greens
4 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon chicken stock or broth, or water
2 cups cooked fresh or frozen shelled green butterpeas, crowder peas, butter beans, White Acre or other pea
Grated rind of 1 lemon, no white attached, divided
Large pinch of red pepper flakes or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound raw shrimp
1/4 cup shredded or finely chopped country ham (optional)
Wash and dry the greens. Chop into 1-inch lengths.
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet; add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the greens, pour in a tablespoon of stock or water, toss and cover. Cook until thoroughly wilted but not cooked all the way down, about 10 minutes. Cool.
Stir the peas into the cooled greens mixture; add half the lemon rind and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and toss to combine. Season to taste with more lemon and salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Refrigerate if left out more than 1 hour. Before serving, griddle, broil or grill the shrimp just until they turn a coral-pink color. Form a nest of the salad mixture in the center of a plate, or use a ring mold if desired. Arrange 3 to 4 shrimp around the salad. Sprinkle with the ham if using. Drizzle with more olive oil if desired. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.
Shrimp and Pea Salad
Serves 6Ingredients1 cup baby spinach or other greens4 tablespoons olive oil plus more for drizzling, divided2 cloves garlic, minced1 tablespoon chicken stock or broth, or water2 cups cooked fresh or frozen shelled green butterpeas, crowder peas, butter beans, White Acre or other peaGrated rind of 1 lemon, no white attached, dividedLarge pinch of red pepper flakes or to tasteSaltFreshly ground black pepper1 pound raw shrimp1/4 cup shredded or finely chopped country ham (optional)DirectionsWash and dry the greens. Chop into 1-inch lengths.Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large skillet; add garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add the greens, pour in a tablespoon of stock or water, toss and cover. Cook until thoroughly wilted but not cooked all the way down, about 10 minutes. Cool.Stir the peas into the cooled greens mixture; add half the lemon rind and red pepper flakes. Drizzle with remaining olive oil and toss to combine. Season to taste with more lemon and salt and pepper. Let rest for 30 minutes or up to 24 hours. Refrigerate if left out more than 1 hour. Before serving, griddle, broil or grill the shrimp just until they turn a coral-pink color. Form a nest of the salad mixture in the center of a plate, or use a ring mold if desired. Arrange 3 to 4 shrimp around the salad. Sprinkle with the ham if using. Drizzle with more olive oil if desired. Serve hot, cold or at room temperature.
How to freeze shrimpOld-timers say the best way to freeze shrimp is in waxed milk cartons. Get the freshest shrimp available, place them in a clean carton and cover with ice water. Seal by stapling the top of the carton.Quart- or gallon-size resealable plastic bags also work, but they are prone to punctures. Place shrimp in bag and fill with ice water (even tepid water can begin “cooking” the shrimp). Don't fill bags to the top, and squeeze out excess air. Lay them flat in the freezer on newspaper and/or plastic garbage bags to contain any leaks.Whichever method you choose, don't forget to date the container or bag and indicate the size of the shrimp. The shrimp will keep in a home freezer for 3-6 months.Freezing shrimp without water is not advised unless they will be eaten within a day or two. Any longer and the shrimp will begin to dehydrate, losing taste and becoming rubbery.How much you'll getWith heads-on shrimp, how much will be left after they are peeled?According to “Seafood Recipes of the South Carolina Shrimpers Association,” 1 pound of heads-on shrimp will clean to be 1 cup. One pound of headed shrimp will clean to be about 11/2 cups.When buying heads-on shrimp, count the heads as 1/3 of the weight.Teresa Taylor