Buying and preparing shrimp

Yield: 1 info

Measure Ingredient
None
Shrimp Sizes, Common Market Names, and Uses
stuffing, and grilling
soups, pastas, and sautes
or pureed for stuffing

Colossal, jumbo, large, and medium are familiar labels to shrimp lover, but what most people don't understand is that these are not standardized sizes, but simply marketing terms. Within the industry, shrimp is graded according to the number per pound, known as the weight count. Weight count is important because shrimp is sometimes mislabeled. Asking for it by count rather than size means you'll be assured of what you're buying.

: Count per Pound Best Use : 12 or fewer colossal stuffing and grilling : 16-20 jumbo appetizers, poaching, : 21-25 large appetizers, poaching : 26-30 medium soups, pastas, and sautes : 41-50 small soups, pastas, and sautes : 70 or more extra-small mayonnaise-bound salads Don't automatically peel shrimp without considering how you plan to prepare them. Shrimp cooked in their shell have more flavor, are juicier, and are less likely to be overcooked than shrimp that have been peeled. Although some diners may be squeamish about peeling shrimp at the table, seafood lover will appreciate the extra flavor.

Grilled shrimp particularly benefit from being cooked with their shells intact. But peeling shrimp before cooking makes sense for dishes in which it would be inconvenient to retrieve and peel the shrimp, such as soups, pastas, or stir-fries.

To peel shrimp, start by grasping the first sections of the shell and prying them open so that the shell splits along the shrimp's underside. Then tug on the end of the shrimp to slide off the entire shell.

Before you pull off the tail, think about how you intend to serve the shrimp. If the shrimp are part of an hors d'oeuvre platter and people will be picking them up with their fingers or dipping them into a sauce, the tail makes a natural handle. The tail also comes in handy if you're dipping the shrimp in a batter before cooking. If the shrimp is part of a dish that's intended to be eaten with a fork, removing the tail is up to you. Some people think the tails add flavor, others don't like them. Though deveining is often thought of as a tiresome task, it's really quite simple. The point of deveining shrimp is to remove the small dark "sand vein" ( the shrimp's digestive tract) that runs along the back. Eating this vein won't make you sick, but it can be gritty. To devein shrimp without peeling, cut down the back of the shrimp with kitchen shears and then pull out the vein with the tip of a paring knife. To devein a peeled shrimp, slit the flesh with a knife and lift out the vein.

Butterflied shrimp are simply shrimp that have been cut open to lie flat. Keep in mind that the larger surface area means the shrimp cook more quickly. Butterflied shrimp are perfect for a superquick spin the wok or as a platform for a seafood stuffing. To butterfly, trace the original cut, where the vein used to be, slicing deeply, but taking care not to cut completely through.

If you've peeled your shrimp raw, you can use the shell to make a quick stock. Shrimp stock has incredible flavor and can be used for soups, sauces, and as a poaching liquid for fish and other shellfish.

This intense broth won't be particularly pleasing tasted straight, but it will add lots of shrimp flavor to other food. Just toss the shells from 1-2 pounds of shrimp in a saucepan with 1½ cups of cold water, ½ cup of dry white wine, 1 bay leaf, 1 celery rib, and some chopped onion. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer gently for 25 minutes. Strain the liquid and discard the solid. Shrimp stock freezes well.

Fine Cooking

Aug-Sept 1995

Submitted By DIANE LAZARUS On 11-11-95

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