Shrimp. For many people, this word conjures up images of platters of little pink things with a bowl of a dipping sauce dubiously named “cocktail sauce” sitting in the middle. Or even worse, that same sauce surrounded by golden brown blobs, better known as popcorn shrimp. If that’s all shrimp were, I wouldn’t be too thrilled either. But, as I have discovered, shrimp are a great inclusion in many meals, and they are fast and easy to prepare!
How My Shrimp Experience Began
At one point, my housemates and I sponsored an event that required the purchase of many shrimp to spear on sticks and BBQ. We were a little overzealous in purchasing, and after all the guests left, we had a few bags of shrimp to eat in just a couple days. My housemates were all too busy taking finals to eat them, so I was left with the (seemingly unfortunate but actually delightful) task of eating the shrimp. I discovered that adding about 10 shrimp to any meal I ate would do the trick, and I also invited some friends over to help me out, and they taught me some new ideas for what to do with them. I have since become quite the connoisseur of shrimp, and below are my tips for any newbies looking to break in.
Purchasing and Preparing Shrimp
I buy frozen shrimp. However, I must warn you that unless you plan to eat them cold, frozen cooked shrimp are never a good purchase. When you reheat those, you’ll basically be cooking them all over again, and their texture will be tough. So, frozen raw shrimp. Most grocery stores carry them, found in the frozen food section near the battered and fried frozen shrimp and fish. The ones I’ve traditionally bought are medium sized, deveined, deshelled, raw shrimp. Basically they just have the tail on, and are ready to cook (once you defrost them). Also, as a side note, they can be kind of expensive, but go on sale often, and given that they’re frozen, you can stock up on them when they are. I try to avoid buying them at full price. I keep the shrimp frozen, and I only defrost what I need for the meal I’m making. If you put frozen shrimp in a bowl of room-temperature water, then 3 minutes later dump that water (now ice cold) out and refill with room-temperature water, they should be defrosted in less than 10 minutes. If you didn’t happen to get deveined and deshelled shrimp, you’ll need to take a few minutes to do that: just slit them along the back, pull out the dark colored vein, and pull the shell off. I typically take off the tail as well, because it’s an inconvenience to pull them off as you’re eating.
Cooking shrimp is as easy as tossing them in a frying pan with a bit of oil. Saute until done, which is when the shrimp are curled up tightly and have become more opaque and pink. This usually takes just 5-10 minutes, unless you are cooking a ton of shrimp at once. The fun part comes in spicing things up. Marinate them in your favorite marinade before cooking. Add your favorite spices as they cook. Put in a splash of cooking wine. Cook them with onions and garlic. The possibilities are endless!
Recipe Idea: Spicy Sesame Shrimp
1. (5 minutes) Chop about 1/4 onion per person, and mince about 1/2 clove of garlic per person. Saute in some olive oil over medium heat. While it is cooking, sprinkle in some crushed red pepper. Be careful, this stuff adds a lot of kick, and it’s better to have not enough than too much! Make sure to know the spice preferences of the people you are cooking for as well.
2. (5-10 minutes) When the onions are looking a bit soft, add the shrimp to the pan. You might need to also add a bit more olive oil. Right away, drizzle a teaspoon or so of sesame oil per person over the shrimp. Cooking them in this oil gives them a distinctly Asian flavor.
3. Serve over rice or pasta, with more olive/sesame oil as needed.