Chef Andy: Shrimp Story is no Small Tail
By Chef Andy Mueller
Owner, Galley 57
Whether you like it boiled or broiled, deep fried or grilled, shrimp is not only the most popular seafood in the world, it’s arguably the most versatile. The possibilities are endless when it comes to culinary applications, and each one better than the last. Cooking time is minimal, prep is effortless and the results, with a few key pointers in your back pocket are almost always a success.
I’m sure you’ve seen at least a few different sizes and styles of shrimp at the store and may have had a few questions. “P&D 16-20 count” isn’t a part of a quarterback’s cadence before he snaps the football. It’s a specific description of what is in the bag you’re looking at. “P&D” simply means peeled and deveined. This is one of those things I like to look for as it saves a lot of time and effort when all you want to do is throw together a little shrimp for the scampi recipe that follows.
Yes, you can save a bit of money by doing all the peeling and deveining the shrimp yourself, but if you are ever going to invest in a shortcut in the kitchen, this is it, although I would never recommend peeled and deveined if you are going to boil shrimp for a dish because there is a tremendous amount of flavor in the shell.
The 16-20 count is a type of measurement. They use one pound as a guideline, and on this bag there would be 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. The smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. Common sizes are 16-20 for larger shrimp, and31-35 for smaller applications.
There are extreme cases on both sides of the spectrum, starting with the tiny 120 count that you see in pasta salads, and the monstrous U-6 or even U-2 that are as big as your hand. The “U” means “under” per pound, so U-2 would be under two shrimp per pound. These you could actually use as a flotation device if your scampi goes south on you.
For all practical purposes, the most versatile shrimp are going to fall in the 16-25 per pound range. Any of these can be used for shrimp cocktail, cooked on the grill, sautéed in pasta dishes, or breaded and fried. Anything smaller and you lose that ability to control the cooking process. Any larger and you are going to need to call a loan officer to buy these babies. They can rival lobster, starting at twenty bucks per pound or more depending on quality.
Most shrimp are sold frozen because it travels from Thailand, Bangladesh, or other far-reaching corners of the world. As with any shelled seafood, eat it fresh if you catch it yourself, and frozen if crosses the globe. Thaw it in the fridge overnight, or in cold running water. Once it’s thawed, use it within a day or ice it down and hope for 24 more hours, but that’s about it. Let it go too long and you’ll have every cat in the neighborhood at your door.
Try the scampi that follows and add a delicious and easy twist to your menu this week. Enjoy!
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Spray a pie pan with non stick spray, then line the bottom of the pie tin with one pound of thawed, 16 – 20 count shrimp in a single layer. Set aside.
For the garlic butter, in a mixing bowl combine:
- 2 sticks softened butter
- 4 large cloves fresh garlic, minced
- 1 green onion, finely chopped
- juice of 2 lemons
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Mix to combine. Set aside.
In another mixing bowl, combine:
- 1 cup Japanese bread crumbs (also called Panko crumbs – found in the grocery store by the other bread crumbs)
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Mix thoroughly until butter is well absorbed into the bread crumbs.
Spread the butter over the shrimp evenly. Top with bread crumb mixture. Bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until butter is bubbling and bread crumbs are golden brown. Serve over rice or pasta. Drizzle the shrimp with the residual garlic butter from the baking dish. Top with fresh grated parmesan and enjoy!