Sunday, June 8, 2003

Serve it this week: Shrimp

By Chuck Martin
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Shrimp are America's favorite seafood. Most shrimp sold in the U.S. are harvested from the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Gulf of Mexico, although an increasing number, such as black tiger shrimp, are farm-raised in Asia and Central America.

The hundreds of shrimp species can be divided into two broad categories: warm-water and cold-water shrimp. Generally, cold-water shrimp are smaller and more succulent.

Buy: Shrimp are sold in many forms - shelled and unshelled, raw and cooked, fresh and frozen. The vast majority of shrimp sold have been flash frozen shortly after harvest. As a consequence, many advise buying shrimp frozen and thawing it at home. Whether fresh or frozen, it's also best (and usually cheaper) to buy shrimp in the shell. The best shrimp should smell of the sea with no ammonia odor. They should have no black spots or yellowing on their shells. Cooked, shelled shrimp should look plump and succulent.

Shrimp are marketed according to size or number per pound. The general size categories: colossal (10 or less shrimp per pound), jumbo (11 to 15 per pound), extra-large (16 to 20), large (21 to 30), medium (31 to 35), small (36 to 45) and miniature (about 100 shrimp per pound). In general, 1 pound of whole, raw shrimp yields 1/2 to 3/4 pound meat.

Store: Rinse uncooked shrimp under cold running water and drain thoroughly before refrigerating. Cover tightly and store up to two days. Cooked shrimp can be refrigerated for three days. Freeze shrimp for three months. Deveining is an option for small or medium-size shrimp, but usually preferred for larger shrimp. To devein, run tip of small knife along back of shrimp under cold running water to remove the small vein or intestinal tract.

Prepare: Improve the flavor of shrimp by brining them briefly before cooking. Mark Bittman, author of Fish (Macmillan; $27.50), suggests this method: Stir 1 cup salt and 1/2 cup sugar into 2 cups of boiling water until dissolved. Pour mixture into large bowl filled with ice and water and add up to 2 pounds shrimp. Let shrimp sit in brine, refrigerated (or adding ice occasionally), for up to two hours. Shrimp can be cooked in a number of ways, including steaming, boiling, frying and grilling. Shelled shrimp especially cook quickly, and are done when they turn opaque or bright pink, before they begin to curl.

Good for you: Shrimp are low in fat and calories, yet good sources of iron, potassium and niacin. They are high in sodium and cholesterol, though doctors believe cholesterol in food affects blood cholesterol less than saturated fats.

Johnny Earle's "Barbecued" Shrimp

1 pound large shrimp, peeled

Salt, to taste

1/2 cup butter

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon water

Sprinkle shrimp with salt. Melt butter over medium heat in large skillet. Add remaining ingredients and cook, shaking pan continuously, until shrimp are cooked, 3 to 5 minutes and bright pink. Makes 4 appetizer servings.

Fish (Macmillan; $27.50)

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Serve it this week: Shrimp