Shrimp Story Is No Small Tail

Andy Mueller

andy mueller | in the kitchen with chef andy | june 2018

Photo by Danny NganWhether you like it boiled or broiled, deep fried or grilled, shrimp is not only the most popular, it's arguably the most versatile seafood in the world. 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 your 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.

I would never recommend peeled and deveined if you are going to boil the shrimp for a dish because there is a tremendous amount of flavor in the shell, but that's a different recipe and another article down the road. The "16-20 count" is a type of measurement. They use one pound as a guideline and on this bag there would be 16-20 shrimp per pound. The smaller the number, the bigger the shrimp. Typical sizes are 16-20 for larger shrimp and 31-35 for smaller applications. There are extreme cases on both sides of the spectrum as the tiny salad shrimp you see in pasta salads are 120 count, and the monstrous "U-6" or even “U-2" 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, frozen if it 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!

Shrimp Scampi

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Spray a pie pan with nonstick 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 one lemon

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 tablespoon melted butter

3 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

Mix thoroughly until butter is well absorbed into the breadcrumbs.

Spread the butter over the shrimp evenly. Top with breadcrumb mixture. Bake for about 10-15 minutes or until butter is bubbling and breadcrumbs are golden brown. Serve over rice or pasta. Enjoy!

Chef Andy Mueller is a well-seasoned Chef with over 30 years in the restaurant business. He's been on Food Network with Guy Fieri, was Reggie White's personal chef during their Super Bowl run in 1996 and has been Executive Chef at Zimani's in the late '80s, the original Executive Chef at Black & Tan Grille the first four years of operation and owned restaurants in Door County including Glidden Lodge restaurant north of Sturgeon Bay and Hillside Restaurant in Ellison Bay. He currently owns the massively popular supper club 'Galley 57' in Allouez at 2222 Riverside Dr.

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