There's a funny exchange in Forrest Gump where his friend tells him all the ways he likes to eat shrimp. Boiled Shrimp, Barbequed Shrimp, Steamed Shrimp, Shrimp Creole, Shrimp and Grits, Fried Shrimp... OK, that's not the exact text, but its what comes to mind when I think of Shrimp. Sauteed, Beer-battered, Butterflied, Stir-fried, you name it, I just love shrimp.
When we first moved to Florida I was thrilled with the abundance of fresh local shrimp and blue crabs. I made a weekly trek to the seafood market in Mayport and hauled back bags of live crabs. The constant gurgling and scratching sounds emanating from their paper prison made me all the more appreciative of their delicious sweet meat. Picking crabs is tedious business however, and today I'll gladly pay the extra cost to have it done for me, if the crabs are going to end up in my favorite crabcake recipe. Chef Michael Lomonaco prepares his 21 Club Maryland Style Crabcake appetizer in this video - he's such a baby here! I've tried many, and everyone has their favorite, but this is the only crabcake recipe I use now. The chile mayo is a perfect accompaniment.
And then there is the shrimp. Safe Harbor Seafood in Mayport has the best, sweetest shrimp. - Pictured are their Shrimp Tacos. - If you don't want to drive all the way out there, you can get good Mayport shrimp at Publix, but they aren't going to be as fresh, and you are going to pay at least $2 more per pound for the convenience. So I say, see you in Mayport. I usually take Fridays off in summer and head directly out there so I'm there when the market opens at 10. That way I can get a lovely shrimp taco at the restaurant, enjoy that on the deck outside while its still relatively cool out (ok, I did say relatively)... and then hit the seafood market. Three pounds of jumbo head off shrimp is my usual deal, but if there will be company you'll want to add at least 1/2 pound per extra person per entree. How you cook them is up to you.
I like mine simply pan sauteed in butter, lemon, white wine and garlic, toss some chopped italian parsley and hit it with some fresh lemon juice to finish. Sop it up with crusty french bread - the best you can find. My advice, if you like full-on shrimp flavor, is to SLIGHTLY butterfly them before cooking. It creates delicate ruffled edges that expands the shrimp's volume, and makes them hold sauces better. I don't cut too deeply though, because I want a full round shrimp. Just cut 1/3 way through the back, and you should have a decent curly round delicious piece of shrimp when it is cooked.
If I'm cooking for a relaxed gathering - I'm likely to do a Low Country Boil - also called Frogmore Stew - although not a stew, and no frogs... This is cold weather fare for me. If its hot out, Cold Boiled (or as my mom calls it, "Co-Bowl") Shrimp is a simply elegant choice. To a large pot of fresh water add LOTS of Old Bay, cayenne pepper, vinegar, salt, pepper, crushed garlic, a quartered lemon, raw onion, bring to a full boil, then drop in your shrimp - shells and all. Two minutes - three if they are really big - off the heat, remove and drain, toss them into a large bowl with plenty of chipped ice. When they are chilled, peel and dip into your favorite sauce, or squeeze some fresh lemon juice on them and enjoy.
I'm always in the market for a new favorite recipe - so please share yours!