The shrimp is one of the sea’s most tender, succulent and abundant delights. Their flavor can be exceptional, sweet, salty or bland, depending upon how they’re prepared. The better shrimps are treated, the better they are going to taste.

The simple shrimp is a giant of the sea, not for its size, but its contribution to the culinary arts. Useful in tens of thousands of outstanding recipes, it has found its way into almost every national or ethnic cuisine.

Today, shrimp purchased from some sources, particularly China and Vietnam, are injected with a substance known as carboxymethyl cellulose or CMC that plumps them and keep them fresh looking while on display in the market.  The gel is not tested by the Food and Drug Administration, but equally important, it adds weight to each shrimp, so you’re buying less shrimp for the price. It’s the chemical equivalent of a finger on the scale.

Shrimp

1. Only defrost the quantity you’re going to use at any one time (hope that the shrimp arrived frozen in manageable blocks. If not, place it in your refrigerator until it’s thawed enough to portion, but still icy and essentially frozen. Portion and re-freeze what you’re not going to use immediately).

2. Thaw the shrimp in the refrigerator or in a bucket, by running COLD running water over it. If you use the cold water method, allow the water to run over the top of the bucket and into the sink, to ensure a constant supply of fresh water (the temperature of the thawing water should never exceed 70 degrees, and the temperature of the thawed shrimp should never exceed 40 degrees.) If your tap water is hotter, add ice to the thawing shrimp. If the shrimp exceeds 40 degrees, place it in a bath of half ice and half COLD water, and refrigerate until it comes down to below 40. Store thawed shrimp under refrigeration in a mixture of half shrimp, half ice.

3. To peel, devein your shrimp, go to your local seafood market or gadget center, and pick up a nifty little gadget called a “shrimptool”. It will cost a couple of dollars, and for the quantity of shrimp we’re talking about here, it’s worth it.

4. If you want to peel/devein the shrimp for a recipe, keep the unpeeled shrimp on ice as you work with it. Do not let the temperature exceed 40 degrees. Drop your peeled, deveined shrimp into an ice water bath until you’re ready to use it. Peeled deveined shrimp may be held this way for up to 24 hours without much loss in flavor/texture.

This seems like a lot of trouble, but shrimp begins to lose flavor/texture almost immediately once it gets the least bit warm. Health/safety questions aside, the ice method, while troublesome, results in a MUCH better tasting end product.

One other tip — the iodine in the shrimp will be irritating to your hands, if you handle a large quantity at a time. To avoid this, soak your hands in a strong solution of baking soda and water after working with large amounts.

Finally, a quick recipe for fried shrimp that we enjoy:

Go to the store and purchase a package of tempura batter mix. Make the mix according to package directions, substituting cold beer (or cold club soda, if you prefer to avoid alcohol) for the water called for in the recipe.

Dip butterflied peeled, deveined shrimp in the batter, and fry in hot deep fat until light gold (it won’t and shouldn’t get deep brown).

The leftover batter makes unbelievable onion rings.

Keywords: Information, Seafood, Southern, Shellfish, Shrimp

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