'I wiped away the weed and foam I fetched my sea-born treasures home; But the poor, unsightly, noisome things Had left their beauty on the shore, With the sun and the sand and the wild uproar' ----Ralph Waldo Emerson
Once upon a time, only the few who luckily lived by the sea, rivers or bayous could capture and savor the freshness of those 10-legged crustaceans called shrimp. Throughout years of changing tides and seasons the crustaceans stayed and multiplied, and now, all around the globe, there are about 300 species of them. Thanks to the persistent efforts of dedicated shrimpers, from the lowly trawlers in little coastal villages to big-time commercial operators with high-tech tools and processing equipment, the distinctive delicate taste of this shellfish is conveniently available to inland residents and shore dwellers alike.
I well remember from my youth in the Philippines the delight of picking live, moving shrimp that were peddled in huge worn-out bamboo baskets along the shores of Manila Bay. The catch would come in all sizes, from small wiggly ones to mammoth-size prawns called sugpo. I cherish the memory of those sweet and succulent delicacies, which as soon as we got home, then a stone's throw away from the shore, we would simply saute whole in their shells just until they turned a bright red.
A recent seafood buying spree let me rediscover sugpo, shell and head intact, frozen in an icy block imported all the way from the islands. Flash-freezing techniques, minutes after the shrimp are netted, now make it possible to lock in the seafood's fresh quality. Today, most shrimp sold in fish markets in the United States are frozen and sold either still frozen or thawed.
Tremendous imports of wild and cultured shrimp from foreign coasts are helping the declining supply of domestic shrimp to meet the ever-increasing demand in the United States. The leading foreign supplier of tropical or warm-water headless shrimp is Mexico, followed by Ecuador with its vast aquaculture ponds where seafood is raised and bred in controlled environments. Third in volume is India, which ironically ranks No. 1 in global shrimp import. For green shrimp with the head still on, a number of Asian countries and Australia contribute to the local supply. Composing the rest of the global catch, about 12%, cold-water or Northern shrimp are mainly supplied in this country by Norway.
"'The huge im port supply and improved shrimp farming are making shrimp a relatively better value," according to Ernest Doizaki, president of American Fish & Seafood Co. Import varieties have made it possible to please every shrimp buyer. "People have different taste patterns," Doizaki said. "Americans favor the white shrimp (shell is grayish-white) from Mexico, which is the crisper, more bland type, whereas Japanese people like the brown shrimp (shell is reddish-brown), which actually has a slight iodine flavor."
Color also plays a role. "Restaurants that like to serve bright red shrimp for cocktails select the large tiger shrimp, which comes from Taiwan," Doizaki added.
Still 11 times lower in consumption than beef and five times lower than poultry, seafood consumption in the United States has held at about 13 pounds per person annually. There's still a great need for educating consumers on the health benefits of eating low-calorie seafood such as shrimp.
Interestingly, about 80% of the shrimp supply goes to restaurateurs. An article in the winter issue of Seafood Leader, an industry trade publication, shows who gets what price for shrimp. For instance, the shrimper gets $5.50 per pound for shrimp (16 to 20 pieces), the processor gets $6.60, the wholesaler passes it on for $7.60 to the retailer and restaurateur. The consumer buys it for $9.95 per pound at the market and pays up to a whopping $36 per pound in a restaurant. "Consumers haven't fully realized they're still getting greater value buying and cooking the shrimp themselves than going to a restaurant," Doizaki said.
There's also a need to teach cooking methods, including how to treat each shrimp differently to bring out the best overall flavor. Absolutely fresh shrimp require no seasonings other than salt or melted butter, whereas those on the blander side may be accented with garlic and other seasonings and used for stews, bouillabaisse, etc.
Cookbook author Martin Yan, a Chinese cooking teacher on a PBS television series, favors steaming or poaching shrimp, particularly fresh ones, to bring out the natural flavor. "Quickly boil them in the shell so they don't lose those juices, then peel and dip in a condiment," Yan says. "Shrimp that have been stripped of the shell by the packer and frozen 'in the nude' are totally inappropriate to Chinese cooking--lacking most any taste and texture. If your market shells them upon thawing, that is one thing, but never buy shrimp that are shelled and then frozen." The best way to eat shrimp, Yan says, is in its raw state, but the shrimp should be very fresh and should come from a reliable source.
"I never liked it before, but Chinese do copy the Japanese or other race and vice versa," he says. "For instance, isn't Benihana's cooking more American? Now they've copied it in Japan." Indeed, there is a continuous exchange of food eating habits. "Even the Chinese have adapted to eating the American broccoli, which is not grown in Chinese countries," he continues. Yan gave us his recipe for butterflied prawns stuffed with broccoli and served with a crab sauce. He said he once tasted the delicious dish in Hong Kong at an elegant banquet and then developed it here.
Aside from Asian cookery, another spectrum of savory shrimp dishes is found in Spanish as well as Creole and Cajun cookery. In the American way of handling shrimp the tail flesh counts most and the head is discarded. Other cultures serve the shrimp whole to enjoy the distinctive flavor of the shrimp fat in the heads. They also use the heads to flavor stocks or sauces.
According to Paul Prudhomme, noted New Orleans chef, the orange-colored fatty substance in the heads of shrimp contributes an important rich, sweet taste as well as reddish color to any dish. Asked about seasonings, he comments, "I like to uplift the taste of shrimp with seasonings such as thyme, basil, red, white and black pepper, anise; and for complementary vegetables, I think green onions, mushrooms, zucchini and yellow squash are good with it."
His new book, "Chef Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen" (William Morrow: $19.95) includes his favorite Creole and Cajun shrimp dishes as well as innovative shrimp and vegetable dishes or other seafood combinations. "Still one of my favorite shrimp dishes is the coconut beer shrimp," Prudhomme claims. "It was Adelaide Brennan's idea to put it on the menu at Commander's Palace and I perfected it there." (Prudhomme worked in New Orleans as executive chef for five years at Commander's Palace owned by the Brennans before he established K-Paul's Louisiana Kitchen.)
For ideas on shrimp finger foods, there's an excellent selection in Martha Stewart's new book, "Hors D'Oeuvres" (Clarkson N. Potter: $17.95), including recipes for grilling and smoking the shellfish. One we found exceptionally appealing is called Shrimp Wrapped in Chinese Pea Pods, in which the shrimp is marinated after parboiling.
Another contributor to our shrimp recipe collection is Cecilia de Castro, assistant director of Ma Cuisine, Ma Maison's cooking school. Two favorites with her students are recipes she developed. One is an easy stir-fry dish with green onions and the other a sauteed shrimp with a creamy reduced sauce which de Castro likes to "perfume" with anise liqueur.
And last, but not least, are four recipes that we created in our Test Kitchen: a pasta-shrimp salad with a sweet and sour oil-less dressing; a pork-stuffed shrimp tempura; a braised shrimp dish with a hot tomato sauce, and a shrimp and feta pizza with fresh tomatoes. Add these to your recipe collection of shrimp jambalayas, scampi, barbecues, bisques, cocktails and Chinese stir-frys . . . you can't go wrong with shrimp.
SHRIMP AND PASTA SALAD
1/2 pound cooked peeled and deveined shrimp
4 ounces small pasta shells, cooked and drained
Sweet and Sour Dressing
2 tablespoons finely julienned ginger root
4 green onions, finely julienned
1 cup diagonally sliced celery
Salad greens, optional
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
Slice shrimp in halves crosswise, if large. Toss pasta shells with dressing in large bowl. Mix in ginger, green onions and celery. Add shrimp and toss gently. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Chill, covered, until serving time. Serve on salad greens. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Sweet and Sour Dressing
1/4 cup catsup
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons vinegar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2/3 cup water
Combine catsup, sugar, vinegar, cornstarch and water in saucepan until smooth. Cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring frequently. Cool.
STUFFED SHRIMP TEMPURA
16 to 18 jumbo shrimp
1/2 pound ground pork
3 to 4 tablespoons minced green onions
1 small clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced ginger root
Dash MSG, optional
Tempura batter mix
Oil for deep-frying
1/4 cup soy sauce
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Peel shrimp, leaving tails on. Slit back of each shrimp and devein. Rinse in cold water and pat dry. Lightly season shrimp with salt and pepper. Combine ground pork, green onions, garlic, ginger, egg, MSG and salt and pepper to taste. Fill slit of each shrimp with pork mixture. Roll shrimp in flour.
Prepare tempura batter according to package directions. Heat oil to 375 degrees. Holding by tail, dip each stuffed shrimp in batter, then fry in oil 5 minutes or until done. (Cut first shrimp in half to test for doneness of pork.) Drain on paper towels and serve with dipping mixture of soy sauce and lemon juice. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
Variation: In place of tempura batter, stuffed shrimp may be individually wrapped with strip of bacon or won-ton wrapper.
HOT SHRIMP WITH PEPPERS
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, sliced
1 sweet red pepper, cut in wedges
1 green pepper, cut in wedges
1 stalk celery, diagonally sliced
1 teaspoon hot chile oil or hot chile sauce
1 pound large shrimp (12 to 15), peeled and
1 egg, lightly beaten
Lemon juice, optional
Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and saute until lightly golden. Add onion, red and green peppers and celery. Saute just until vegetables are tender-crisp. Add chile oil and shrimp. Cook just until shrimp turn pink. Stir in Tomato Sauce. Heat 1 minute. Stir in egg and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve with steamed rice. Makes 4 servings.
Quick Variation: Before adding shrimp, stir in 1 to 2 tablespoons spicy-sweet Thai chile sauce and 1/2 cup catsup to vegetables. Add shrimp, egg, salt, pepper and lemon juice. Omit chile oil and prepared Tomato Sauce.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/4 cup minced onion
1 cup finely chopped peeled tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
2 to 3 teaspoons Chinese chili sauce or cayenne pepper to taste
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat olive oil in saucepan. Add garlic, onion and tomatoes. Saute 5 minutes. Stir in chicken broth, chili sauce, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. For smoother sauce, puree in blender or food processor before using.
SAVORY SHRIMP PIZZA
Pizza crust mix for 1 (12-inch) pizza
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
1 cup sliced or chopped onion
4 Italian tomatoes or 2 medium tomatoes, sliced and drained
1 cup julienned green peppers
1/2 cup julienned shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon crushed herb mixture (savory, basil, oregano)
12 ounces cooked baby shrimp, well-drained
1 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Prepare pizza crust according to package directions, using greased 12-inch pizza pan. After final rising of dough in pan, sprinkle evenly with 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Bake at 425 degrees 10 minutes. Remove from oven. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese and onion. Arrange tomato slices, green pepper and mushroom strips on top. Sprinkle with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper to taste and crushed herbs. Return to 425-degree oven and bake 20 minutes.
Cover with shrimp, feta cheese and remaining Parmesan. Bake additional 5 minutes. Makes 4 servings.
MARTHA STEWART'S SHRIMP WRAPPED IN CHINESE PEA PODS
1 bay leaf
1 pound medium shrimp (30 to 32), peeled and
1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon sweet rice vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large clove garlic, crushed
15 to 16 Chinese pea pods
Add bay leaf to large pot of water and bring to rapid boil. Add shrimp and cook until just done, 2 to 3 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain shrimp, immerse in very cold water to cool and drain again. Place in glass or stainless-steel bowl.
Mix vinegars, olive oil and garlic in bowl or covered jar. Shake or mix well and pour over shrimp. Stir to coat well, cover bowl and refrigerate 1 to 2 days, tossing every 12 hours.
String pea pods and blanch in boiling water 30 seconds. Chill in ice water and drain. Split pods lengthwise to obtain 30 to 32 separate halves. Wrap pea pod around each shrimp and fasten by piercing with round wood pick. Serve cold or at room temperature. Makes 30 to 32 appetizers.
Note: Skewered shrimp can be stuck into large head of cabbage. Cut off a bit of the bottom of the cabbage so it stands upright.
COCONUT BEER SHRIMP WITH SWEET AND TANGY DIPPING SAUCE
1 tablespoon ground red pepper, preferably cayenne
2 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 3/4 cups flour
3/4 cup beer
1 tablespoon baking powder
4 dozen medium shrimp, peeled (leave tails on) and deveined, about 2 pounds
3 cups (about 6 ounces) grated coconut
Oil for deep-frying
Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
Combine red pepper, salt, paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme and oregano, mixing thoroughly. In separate bowl, combine 2 teaspoons seasoning mix with eggs, 1 1/4 cups flour, beer and baking powder. Mix well, breaking up any lumps.
In small bowl, combine remaining 1/2 cup flour with 1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoning mix. Set aside. Place coconut in separate bowl.
Sprinkle both sides of shrimp with remaining seasoning mix. Holding shrimp by tail, dredge each in flour mixture, shaking off excess, then dip in batter (except for tail), allowing excess to drip off. Generously coat with coconut and place on baking sheet.
Heat oil in deep-fryer to 350 degrees. Drop shrimp, 1 at a time, into hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds to 1 minute per side. Do not crowd. (Test for doneness by cutting first fried shrimp in half. Batter should be cooked through, but shrimp not overcooked.) Drain on paper towels. Serve immediately with Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce.
To serve as main dish, place about 1/3 cup sauce in each of 6 small bowls and place each on serving plate. Surround each bowl with about 8 shrimp. For appetizer, serve 4 shrimp per person with 3 tablespoons sauce on each side. Makes 6 main-dish or 12 appetizer servings.
Sweet and Tangy Dipping Sauce
1 (18-ounce) jar orange marmalade, or 1 2/3 cups
5 tablespoons Creole or brown mustard
5 tablespoons finely grated fresh horseradish or prepared horseradish
Combine orange marmalade, mustard and horseradish. Mix well. Makes 2 1/2 cups.
MARTIN YAN'S CRYSTAL PRAWNS WITH CRAB SAUCE
12 jumbo shrimp or prawns
2 teaspoons Sherry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Dash white pepper
4 teaspoons cornstarch
1 pound broccoli
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped ginger root
1 teaspoon finely chopped green onion
4 ounces cooked crab meat, shredded
3/4 cup chicken broth
1 tablespoon water
1 egg white, lightly beaten
Shell shrimp, leaving tails intact. Butterfly, cutting lightly along back without separating halves. Remove veins. Make about 1-inch slit in center of each shrimp. Combine shrimp with Sherry, sesame oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, white pepper and 2 teaspoons cornstarch. Allow to marinate 1 hour.
Cut broccoli into florets. Trim stems and cut diagonally into thin slices. Holding each shrimp by tail, push tail through center slit, then insert broccoli floret. Repeat with remaining shrimp.
Arrange shrimp and broccoli in heat-proof pie dish. Heap broccoli stems in center. Place on rack in steamer and steam over high heat 5 to 10 minutes. While steaming, heat wok or saucepan over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil, then saute ginger and green onion. Stir in crab meat, broth, salt to taste and remaining 2 teaspoons cornstarch mixed with water. Cook just until slightly thickened. Remove wok from heat. Slowly drizzle and stir in beaten egg white. Pour over steamed prawns and serve immediately. Makes 4 to 6 servings.
CECILIA DE CASTRO'S SPICY SHRIMP WITH GREEN ONIONS
12 to 16 ounces large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
Freshly ground pepper
Dash cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon flour
2 ounces peanut oil
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/2 teaspoon Chinese chili paste
1/2 cup green onions, chopped
Season shrimp with salt, pepper and cayenne to taste. Dredge with flour. Heat oil in wok or large skillet over high heat until very hot. Add shrimp and quickly stir-fry 2 to 3 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Stir in oyster sauce and chili paste and cook 1 minute. Stir in green onions and serve immediately. Makes 2 to 4 servings.
SHRIMP WITH PERNOD
AND SAFFRON SAUCE
16 large shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 teaspoon almond oil
1 tablespoon clarified unsalted butter
1 shallot, minced
2 ounces Pernod
2 ounces dry white wine
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
Season shrimp with salt and pepper. Lightly dust with flour. Heat almond oil and 1 tablespoon clarified butter in saute pan over medium heat. Saute shrimp and shallot just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp and place on serving platter or individual plates.
Drain off excess fat and deglaze pan with Pernod and white wine. Stir in whipping cream and continue to heat until reduced by about half of original amount. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup unsalted butter, a little at a time. Sprinkle with saffron and cook 1 minute. Add to shrimp and garnish with chervil or flowers of fennel. Serve with steamed baby vegetables. Makes 4 servings.