Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Me and My Shrimp

just plain shrimp, to be eaten with cocktail sauce

I have a long and affectionate relationship with shrimp. When I was a kid and out to dinner with my parents, shrimp cocktail was my favorite restaurant appetizer. I loved the way they were presented, usually served dangling over the edge of a silver or crystal bowl, with a little tub of cocktail sauce in the center and a slice of lemon on the plate below. I also loved that I could eat them with my fingers.

Later, shrimp was one of the foods that I served to company. It had many incarnations: shrimp creole, scampi, stuffed shrimp, jambalaya, and one of my very favorites, shrimp de jonghe. Shrimp dejonghe is one of those foods that I eat infrequently, because it's so rich with butter, but I adore it. I serve it in large seashells that I was given years ago. I think they were meant for Coquille St. Jacques, another rich and tasty seafood dish, but one that I have made exactly once. However, I keep the shells because they are the perfect vehicle for serving up my shrimp de jonghe. The dish was named, by the way, for the DeJonghe Hotel in Chicago and the brothers who owned it.

One thing I love about shrimp is that it is tasty but very mild. So it goes well with sharp flavors like horseradish or garlic. When I eat shrimp plain and cold, I make a quick sauce by mixing together ketchup, horseradish, lemon juice, and a dash of Tabasco. When I eat it hot, most often I make quick scampi.

I've been reluctant to try grilling shrimp, because it cooks quickly and I was afraid I'd ruin it. However, I visited some friends last week and they had a great method: cook peeled shrimp for 2-3 minutes in boiling water; drain and set the colander over ice in the refrigerator. This keeps the shrimp from being soggy. After the rest of the dinner is ready, slather the shrimp with a marinade (teriyaki sauce or garlic and butter) and then throw on a very hot grill just for a few moments. Since the shrimp is already cooked, this just heats it up, chars the outside a bit, and carmelizes the marinade. Delicious!

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