This week I wanted to continue my Valentine’s dinner for two series. So far, I’ve done truffle pasta, cream eggs breakfast, healthy Asian sticky rice, and red colored desserts. I wanted to make seafood for some diversity, and my deciding factor was that the supermarket was having a sale on jumbo shrimp. So my menu was decided. Now I just envisioned creating dish that was easily sharable between two people and easy to make together.
When buying shrimp, there are several things that I consider. Since fresh (live) shrimp is more rare and expensive, I will accept buying frozen shrimp that is uncooked and unpeeled. I find that cooked shrimp do not last that long in the freezer and adapt that unfresh freezer taste quicker than uncooked shrimp. Most frozen shrimp at the supermarket may have been thawed at some point, and the shrimp is less protected against the freezer without its shell. I also check to make sure the shell is clear in color and the meat does not have any pink areas or strange black spots which indicate that the meat is breaking down.
Deveined shrimp are shrimp where the gastrointestinal tract is removed and thus prepared for eating. The digestive track is normally a dark band running from the shrimp head to the tail along its back. Deveining shrimp before freezing may cause a loss of flavor or texture. However, I like the convenience of buying already deveined shrimp since it is already cleaned and ready to prepare for eating. Be cautious about labels such as “jumbo shrimp”. The size of the shrimp is displayed by a number on the bag that indicates how many shrimps it would take to make up one pound. This is a firm guideline for displaying shrimp size, and large shrimp are almost always more expensive. Here is how I select the right size of shrimp for my cooking needs:
If the bag says 11 to 15: these are jumbo shrimps. I would use them for cooking special occasion appetizers or mains.
16 to 20: these are extra-large shrimps and good for grilling, making skewers, or broiling.
21 to 30: these are large shrimps, which are perfect for shrimp cocktail and shrimp appetizers.
31 to 35: these are medium sized shrimps. I would use these for making pasta and stir fry dishes.
36 to 45: these are small shrimp. They are great for making salads, soups, and adding them to sauces or dips.
Over 100: these are miniature shrimp. Many Asian dishes use this size for accenting stir fry or steamed dishes. They are also good for making soups and salads.
I recommend that you buy enough for a quarter pound of shrimp per person at your table. Defrost the shrimp in refrigerator overnight or in cold water before use. Be careful not to overcook the shrimp or it will be tough and rubbery. The key to perfect shrimp is to cook them quickly using any method (boiling, grilling, etc.). When cooking shrimp, the rule is that they are done when they turn pink, regardless of method. This can take as little as 2 minutes for small/medium shrimp and up to 5 minutes in larger shrimp.
In this recipe, the shrimp are butterflied and opened flat, then topped with a flavorful butter and quickly broiled in their shells. Since the shrimp are butterflied, it is best to be sure they are deveined. Although I bought deveined shrimp, sometimes there are shrimp in the package that haven’t been deveined. In those cases, I remove the dark vein manually. When prepared like this, the shrimp are easy to peel, and very flavorful and attractive. It was the perfect start to a romantic dinner for two!
1 lb deveined, shell-on jumbo shrimp (16-20 per pound)
3/4 cup butter, slightly softened
Leaves from one bunch parsley, minced (about 1/2 cup)
5 garlic cloves
1 tbsp lemon zest
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp pepper
In a bowl, combine the butter, parsley, garlic, lemon zest, salt and pepper. Mash together well with a wooden spoon.
Preheat the oven broiler on high setting. Remove the legs from the shrimp.
With a sharp paring knife, make an incision 1/4 inch deep all the way along the curved back of each shrimp up to the tail. Don’t cut all the way through the shrimp; just cut enough to open it, or butterfly it.
Lift any dark vein with the tip of the knife and pull it out to discard.
Press down on the opened shrimp to flatten it without separating the halves. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and pat dry.
Arrange the shrimp in a single layer in a baking dish or roasting pan. Place 1-2 tsp of the parsley mixture (depending on the size of your shrimp) in the center of each shrimp. Slide the pan under the broiler and broil until the shrimp turn pink and are just cooked through (about 5 minutes).
Transfer the shrimp to a serving platter, pour any drippings from the pan over the shrimp, and serve.