I’ve gotten so many wonderful emails about your pumpkin cooking success that I thought I would keep the ball rolling by showing you something that’s really delicious– that most never even think to do!
Today, you’ll learn how to make shrimp stock; a savory, amber-colored broth made from the shells of fresh shrimp that can be used as an incredibly flavorful (thus valuable) component of rice, soups, stews and sauces. And, the craziest part, most people toss the shells in the garbage! I’m also going to show you how to remove the gritty intestinal vein (to devein) and then to butterfly shrimp, which helps them to curl nicely when they simmer.
By the way, although shelling shrimp is, as you’ll soon see, easy to do yourself, you can ask your fish-monger to do it–But remember, shrimp are usually first weighed with their shells on, so you’re paying for them and have every right to ask to take them home!
OK, first, let’s remove the shells: When you take shrimp home, put them in a colander and rinse them well under cold running water. You’ll need a thin, preferably serrated knife since the jagged edge of the blade helps to easily sever the shell.
Working with one at a time, hold a shrimp in your nonworking hand, tail at the top and outer (larger curved side) of the shell facing out (like below).
Holding your knife handle in your working hand, insert the tip of the serrated blade inside the bottom of the shell (blade facing outward toward the shell–not toward the shrimp flesh). Like this…
Now, while holding firmly onto the shrimp, bring the blade of the serrated knife upward, toward the tail, splitting open the shell as you go. (Only about 1/4 of an inch of the blade should be inserted.)
When you get to the top (the tail) you can either continue, in order to remove it along with the rest, or leave it on–Depending on what you intend to do with the shrimp. (Leaving the tails on, when simmering shrimp in a hearty stew, gives the dish a nice rustic touch.) Pull off the outer shell which will also carry with it the legs that are located in the inner curved portion of the shrimp.
Before you put each shelled shrimp into a bowl, you need to rinse it well (especially where you cut open the shell) since this is where you’ll find the intestinal vein. (By the way, if you don’t devein the shrimp, eating the vein won’t physically kill you–but it’s pretty gross, don’t you think??)
Below is a fully cleaned shrimp (meaning, it’s been shelled and deveined).
So, you’ll accumulate all your shells in one bowl and all the shrimp in another.
At this point, after patting the shrimp dry, you can season and skewer them for the grill or you can chop them to use as part of a stuffing, or anything else that your recipe instructs.
When simmering clams (in a red sauce, for instance) I like to “butterfly” shrimp, which simply means that I take the same knife used to remove the shell and I cut a bit more deeply into that same crevice. Like this…
Here is a perfectly butterflied shrimp.
Now, let’s make shrimp stock.
Rinse the shells under cold water in a sieve.
And drain them well.
Fat or no fat–You have a choice (and I opt for a bit of butta, baby!)
Add a couple of tablespoons of full-butter (not clarified) to a skillet and, when hot and bubbling, add the drained shells. (You can omit the butter and just add the shells to a dry, hot skillet). Stir the shells in the pan until they go from their natural grayish transclucency to…
A deep salmony pink color. Keep sauteeing, over high heat, stirring pretty constantly until the shells begin to caramellize (and here’s where that butter helps because the milk solids candy along with the sugars in the shells (this smells amazing). This step is the equivalent of browning bones (chicken, beef, veal, etc.) before simmering them in liquid.
You can see this caramelization….Look (above) at the bottom of the pan…This brown stuff holds amazing flavor (it’s called “the fond”) and when released with liquid, it leaves the bottom of the pan and goes into the stock (which will happen now).
Add to the pan, cold water to cover the cooked shells along with some aromatic vegetables (carrots, celery, leeks, onions) and whole black peppercorns.
By the way, I always keep a doubled jumbo bag of cut up aromatics in my freezer.
So I’m always ready and able to quickly put a pot of shrimp stock together…
And, since browned shrimp shells offer their goodness so readily to liquid, after just 30 minutes to 1 hour of simmering, drag the pan to a cool burner and allow the solids to cool in the broth.
Discard the solids and what you have is quite the bowl of deliciousness!
Shrimp stock can be used right away or you can store it in the fridge for a few days, or in tubs in the freezer for several months.
Here are just a few uses….
Here the shrimp stock has been brought to a boil in a pan with sauteed vegetbles and toasted raw rice, to make a rice pilaf …
Here is the rice after simmering…
(A detailed rice lesson is coming…)
You would choose to use shrimp stock in this pilaf when serving a dish that features a complimentary protein. Like this…
Clams and shrimp simmered in a spicy red sauce (detailed blog coming).
Or you can butterfly the shrimp (remember I showed you how about 3 minutes ago) and you can simmer them gently in red sauce (with lots of garlic and basil. Then, you would ladle the piping hot, cooked shrimp (with an ample amount of sauce) into a heatproof dish and then scatter some shreddeed cheese on top. (I mix Italian fontina, mozzarella, parmesan and muenster). Then, just run the dish under a hot broiler until the cheese is all hot and bubbling, and you’ve got yourself an amazing Shrimp Parmesan!
You could serve the above with a side of cooked pasta (angel hair) that’s bathed in some melted butter and hot shrimp stock. Yikes, that’s good!
The Point: Shrimp shells are not just something to throw away. They can be used to create a truly heightened level of flavor in many dishes that feature seafood. I hope today’s lesson has helped you to feel more inspired and able to do so. Please let me know! I’m here for you. Laur..