Read The Laughing Chef's bio and previous
January 2, 2008
From Gray Slimy Lumps to Luscious Shrimp
one thinks of shrimp cocktail, thoughts tend to jump quickly to the end
product – seafood dredged through cocktail sauce and eaten. Very few
think of the process by which the shrimp is turned from gray and slimy
lumps into something not just edible but delicious. Yet process is very
Typically, the steps are simply farmed out to someone else, and a
professionally prepared mix of seasonings is substituted for a few
minutes’ worth of effort. Yet, it’s worth spending a minute or two
considering the dangers that the professionally prepared mix has been
sitting around for awhile and has been rendered inert by the slow,
gnawing march of time.
foundation of your own mix is salt, a finely ground sea salt. You are
free to skimp on this, but a better tasting salt means better tasting
seafood. It also serves another purpose, smoothing the transition of
shrimp and other edibles from things of the sea to things of your
stomach. At some molecular level, seafood can communicate better with
sea salt than it can with regular old table salt.
There are peanut butter and jelly. There are peas and carrots. There are
pork chops and applesauce. There are salt and pepper. Many things in the
kitchen come in twos, and basic condiments are two of them.
While you will want to start with a healthy amount of salt, you will
want to supplement it with ground pepper. The topic of peppers is not
one that is typically broached, and it remains a greatly overlooked
topic in debates about the kitchen.
matter is somewhat confused by the presence of different kinds of
pepper. There is pepper that comes in peppercorn form, and pepper that
comes courtesy from fleshy pods. Here, we will further muddle things by
saying that both kinds of pepper will be represented here – finely
ground black pepper and finely ground red pepper.
Black pepper comes from a peppercorn, and red pepper is a crushed and
ground dried chili pepper. Use both in this mix, with the amount
depending on personal preference for heat.
will also want to add garlic powder to the mix. Seafood and garlic go
together like peanut butter and jelly, peas and carrots, pork chops and
applesauce and also salt and pepper.
to this mix a healthy dose of hot paprika, a ground bay leaf, some
oregano, thyme, a clove bud and – if you have it – some dried lemon
it well, sprinkle some into a pan of boiling water and store the rest in
an airtight glass container.
Place a steaming tray above the water and lay your shrimp over the top,
overlapping only if there are too many to leave only one layer.
will want to steam the shrimp until they turn orange and firm. Do not
let them overcook, owing to the ever-present menace that they might
become tough and rubbery.
they are finished, you may wish to slip them into a refrigerator until
chilled, and serve with a side of cocktail sauce. To make that . . .
well, that’s another story.
North Star Writers Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback
about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column
Request permission to publish here.