On a recent trip to the gulf coast, I had shrimp in the brain. Our vacation included a two-day visit with my sister and 93 year old dad followed by three days in a lovely beach house on the Bolivar Peninsula with my oldest and dearest friends. Before we set out on the hour-long drive from my dad's to the beach, we took a detour to a bait shop where I've been buying shrimp for 25 years. There is no name on the storefront, you just have to know where it is. The family that runs the shop also has a shrimp boat and for $7 a pound head-on, they sell the biggest, freshest and most mind-blowing gulf shrimp that have ever tap-danced across my taste buds. We bought 4 pounds of jumbos, a bag of ice and a pair of cheap sunglasses and hit the road. We stopped for a few grocery items, like lemons, cocktail sauce and margarita ingredients, before meeting up with my friends at our retreat on the beach. Once we got settled in and had a few adult beverages, I put a large pot on the stove to boil.
There are many different ways to prepare jumbo shrimp. It is absolutely yummy sauteed in garlic butter with a squeeze of lemon and served with crusty bread or over pasta. It is fabulous in a tomato broth or a gumbo served over rice. But what I craved was plain boiled shrimp, the best way to enjoy its pure essential flavor. However you choose to serve your shrimp, the worst thing you can do is overcook it. Overcooked shrimp has a hard and mealy texture that is very off-putting. You know your shrimp is ready as soon as it floats and it needs to be plunged into ice water the minute its done to stop the cooking. We cleaned the shrimp by removing the heads and rinsing them under cold water. Louisiana seafood boil. When the water just began to simmer, I dropped the shrimp in and got my bowl of ice ready. It took less than 10 minutes for those big boys to come to the surface of the water. I scooped them out with a slotted spoon and dropped them into the bowl of ice. Just a few hours after the shrimp entered my life, they were being dipped in spicy cocktail sauce and enjoyed by me and my grateful friends.
We ate about half of them on the first night and put the rest in the fridge. For the next three days, we nibbled on shrimp for lunch and in the afternoon with our adult beverages. We also went to dinner one night at a local seafood restaurant where I ate more shrimp. By the time our vacation was over, I was staring to grow antennae, a tail and tiny flippers on my belly. Now I'm back at home and taking advantage of the local ingredients that are in season here in western Pennsylvania. My next trip to Texas is in just a few months and you can bet that wherever I am dining, there will be shrimp on the table.