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Shrimp: Super colossal to extra small

By Deirdre Parker Smith


When you see a special on fresh shrimp at your supermarket or the place you buy seafood, take advantage of it. Shrimp is incredibly versatile, quick to cook and full of flavor.

It’s a good source of protein, too.

June through October are peak shrimp season in North Carolina, with plenty of sources providing the shellfish.

In North Carolina, you’ll find brown, white and pink shrimp. The pink are the earliest shrimp, caught in late spring and early summer, The browns come in July-September, and then you’ll find the whites in September, October and November.

The count of shrimp indicates their size. If you see numbers like 16/20 or 26/30, it simply means there are 16 to 20 shrimp in a pound or 26-30. Those 16/20 are a plump, juicy shrimp. Probably the best size for a variety of shrimp dishes.

Each count also has a name, but the names can be deceiving. Colossal are 15 shrimp or less in a pound, the 16/20 are extra jumbo; 21/25 are considered jumbo; 26/30 is extra large; 31/35 is large, all the way down to 61/70, which is extra small.

Since we call small things shrimpy, you’d think colossal shrimp is an oxymoron, but it’s all relative. Keep in mind that a colossal shrimp is twice as large as a large, based on the count per pound. If eating shrimp as part of a dish that includes other ingredients, such as pasta, all you need of the16/20 shrimp are about five per person. If you’re using small shrimp, perhaps for a salad, 14 per serving is the equivalent.

Some people find smaller shrimp sweeter. Jumbo to colossal shrimp do well on the grill.

For a recipe where shrimp is the star, go for the lower counts-larger shrimp. For salads or delicate dishes, the higher count/smaller shrimp might be your best choice. Say you want a dainty shrimp salad on toast points, go small.

Say you want a good looking shrimp cocktail, the 16/20 present well.

In general, any size shrimp you put in front of someone will be devoured in a short time, whether they are lightly boiled and dripping in cocktail sauce, fried Calabash-style or sitting pretty on a plate of pasta.

Porch Party Shrimp

2 pounds fresh shrimp, 16/20 count

Old Bay seasoning

3-4 whole lemons

1 pound of butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash shrimp, leaving peels on. Slice lemons and butter thinly. Wrap a baking sheet with foil for easy clean-up. Layer shrimp, butter and lemons on the baking sheet. Dot with dollops of Old Bay seasoning.

Back for 15-20 minutes, until shrimp are light pink. Start checking at 15 minute mark to be sure you don’t overcook them.

Serve them family style with toasted French bread to sop up the juice. From Locals Seafood and Bit & Grain.

Simple Shrimp Scampi

1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp

2 Tbsp. butter

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 (or more) cloves garlic, chopped fine

zest and juice of 1 large lemon

1/2 cup white wine

Salt and pepper to taste

Zest the lemon into a measuring cup, then add the wine. Juice the lemon in the same measuring cup, set aside.

Rinse the shrimp in cold water and pat dry. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt butter in a skillet large enough to hold the shrimp in a single layer. Add olive oil.

Sauté shrimp for 1 minute, then add garlic. Cook shrimp for another minute or two and remove from pan with a slotted spoon and put on a plate or in a bowl to keep warm. Add wine/lemon mixture to the pan and bring to a boil. Allow to boil 2-3 minutes, until slightly reduced. Return shrimp to pan, reduce heat and stir so sauce coats shrimp. Remove from heat and serve.

Serve over pasta, rice or a bed of baby spinach.

Variations: Sauté chopped shallots just before adding shrimp; add red pepper flakes to finish the dish; top with chopped parsley or cilantro.

Super Shrimp Spread

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup minced onion

1/4 cup finely chopped celery

Juice of half a lemon

1/2 pound fresh shrimp

2 tsp. Old Bay seasoning

1 Tbsp. butter or olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter or warm olive oil in a pan large enough to hold all the shrimp in one layer. Toss shrimp with Old Bay and sauté briefly, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from stove and cool completely.

Blend cream cheese, mayonnaise, onion, celery and lemon juice. Chop shrimp and add to cream cheese mixture. Chill to blend flavors. Garnish with chopped chives.

Serve with your favorite cracker or on slices of toasted baguette.

Shrimp and Peach Salad

1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

1/2 pound baby spinach

1/4 cup lime juice

1/4 cup honey

3 peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced

3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion

1 pound large shrimp (21/25) poached or steamed and peeled

1 avocado, sliced

Add the olive oil, salt and pepper to a bowl and combine well. Toss the spinach in the oil mixture, then evenly divide it between four serving bowls. Add the lime juice and honey to the same bowl and combine well. Add the peaches, onion and shrimp, tossing to coat. Arrange the peach mixture over the spinach in each bowl. Garnish the top of each salad with avocado slices.

From ”Shrimp,” by Jay Pierce, a Savor the South Cookbook.

Shrimp Burgers

1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp. kosher salt

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

2 scallions white and green parts, thinly sliced

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1/4 cup canola oil

Coarsely chop half the shrimp. Put the remaining shrimp in a food processor and pulse until smooth. Combine with cut up shrimp in a large bowl with the breadcrumbs, lemon juice, salt, garlic powder, pepper, scallions and egg and mix. Refrigerate 10 minutes and then form into four patties. Refrigerate 10 more minutes.

Heat the oil in a large, cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the burgers about 3 minutes per side.

Make Old Bay Mayo

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1 tsp. to 1 Tbsp. Old Bay seasoning

4 buns, halved and toasted

Lettuce, tomato and avocado slices

Mix the mayo and Old Bay to taste in a small bowl. Spread on buns, top with shrimp burgers and lettuce, tomato and avocado.

From Katie Lee of “The Kitchen.”


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