The Simple Art of Cooking: The Gloriousness of Shrimp

Shrimp are probably the most popular and valuable of all our seafood. And among them there is tremendous variation. We think of shrimp as pinkish in tone but some of the finest shrimp are whitish, which are sweeter than the pink ones. According to local sources these shrimp come up from South America, North Carolina, the Gulf of Mexico and Texas and are considered the best, as they’re consistent in quality and flavor. We also see the striped tiger shrimp and even reddish brown shrimp in the market place whose quality I question. From the fisherman’s point of view the most important variation in shrimp is their size.

Classifications in size are approximate. For instance, the categories are 12 to 15 per pound for jumbos, 16 to 20 per pound for extra-large, 20 to 24 per pound for large, 25 to 32 for small and so on.  [expand]

When buying “fresh” shrimp in a reliable market be sure they are firm in texture and above all smell fresh, even if you have to put your nose to it. Shrimp are frozen at the source and defrosted carefully for retail. How many shrimp you buy depends on how they are to be used. About 2 pounds of uncooked shrimp will yield slightly more than a pound cooked after shelling and deveining. The ‘vein’ is actually the intestinal tract found in the upper curve of the peeled shrimp. Not every shrimp contains waste matter but better to check each one and to get rid of it. I note that this is almost never explained by food professionals on television, in books or in a classroom. The vein is along the under curve of shrimp and the shrimp would be mutilated if you tried to truly “devein” it.


With all the ingredients in place this dish for two can be whipped up in short order!

Serves 2

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

8 large or extra-large shrimp, peeled and cleaned

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 teaspoon hot pepper flakes

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Grated rind from 1 lemon

Juice of 1 lemon, about 1/4 cup

3 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

1/2 pound linguine or spaghetti

1/2 cup pasta water before draining the cooked pasta

1. Put the oil and butter in a 10 to 12-inch skillet over medium heat and when butter foam subsides add the shrimp. Cook for 2 minutes on each side, remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside.

2. Saute the garlic in the remaining fat in the skillet for 30 to 40 seconds. Add the pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste, grated rind and lemon juice and toss to mix. Turn off the heat.

3. Meanwhile, bring 5 quarts water to a rolling boil and add a tablespoon or more kosher salt. Put in the pasta all at once, stirring to separate strands. Return immediately to the boil, then cook briskly, uncovered, about 9 to 10 minutes until tender but firm to the bite, al dente.

3. A couple of minutes before the pasta is ready, return the shrimp to the skillet with the garlic and lemon, spoon over juices and cook for a minute to a minute and a half over low heat. Ladle the pasta water into the skillet and drain the pasta. Transfer the pasta to the skillet and toss to mix so the sauce completely coats the pasta. Taste for seasoning and distribute evenly on two warm plates: serve hot.

Note: If necessary, drizzle a bit extra olive oil over the pasta.



Remember that shrimp cook in as little as three minutes: when they turn pink they’re done!

Serve 4 to 6

4 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, shelled and deveined

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf Italian parsley

1. In a skillet, melt butter and when butter foam subsides add shrimp and cook until just pink, about 3 minutes. Transfer to a warm serving platter and season with salt and pepper.

2. Add Lemon juice, garlic and parsley to the pan the shrimp cooked in. Cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Pour garlic sauce over the shrimp, toss to coat and serve with crusty bread to sop up juices.

Note: When shelling shrimp don’t throw the shells away. Put them into a saucepan with a bit of carrot, celery or celery leaves, bay leaf, a sprig of parsley and a dash or two of paprika. Cover with fresh cold water and bring to a boil. Adjust heat and simmer briskly for about 20 minutes. Strain and refrigerate or freeze when you need a small amount of fish stock for a recipe.


A basic tomato sauce, Mediterranean style, is the base for this savory shrimp dish.

Serves 4-6

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced white and unblemished green parts

2 pounds tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered

1 teaspoon kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3/4 pound button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

1 pound large shrimp, shelled and cleaned

1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf Italian parsley

1. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a Dutch saute pan or large skillet. Add garlic and scallions and saute for one or two minutes without browning. Add tomatoes, season with salt and pepper to taste and simmer about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in thyme leaves.

2. In a separate skillet melt 1 tablespoon butter with 1 tablespoon oil and when butter foam subsides put in the mushrooms. Sauté over medium heat about 3 to 4 minutes and transfer to the tomato sauce.

3. Put remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the skillet the mushrooms cooked in and when hot, saute shrimp for 3 minutes, turning once. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Transfer shrimp to the tomato and mushrooms and stir to mix. Transfer to a warm serving dish and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve at once.

Adapted from Silvia Lehrer’s Cooking at Cooktique, Doubleday.


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