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Buying and cleaning shrimp

July 10, 2007

It is difficult to determine which is the better value – head on or head off – when buying fresh shrimp. Obviously, if you intend to eat the heads, or make stock from heads and shells, buying them whole is economical. If not, buying them with the heads removed is usually most economical.

To tell if shrimp is fresh and has been stored properly:

Fresh shrimp have no odor. If their head is intact, the feelers will frequently still be attached if they have been stored over ice or frozen immediately and properly. Shrimp that have not been treated with a preservative will frequently have a dry look. This is preferably to those treated with a preservative, but requires knowing the seller’s habits.

To freeze shrimp:

There are many ways to freeze shrimp, but for the home cook one easy way is to move one layer of shrimp to a dated plastic freezer bag that is flat on a baking sheet. Add water to cover the shrimp, and freeze. Repeat. The bags will stack easily. (Take care no tails or hard shells are poking through the bag, causing air to enter.)

Cleaning shrimp. Not everyone removes the vein from shrimp, but DO cook and eat one test shrimp to see if it is sandy. If it is, clean the whole batch.

Shrimp may be veined and peeled before or after cooking, using one of the gadgets pictured to remove shell and vein.

Many times carefully pulling the head off the shrimp will also remove the vein.

When serving shrimp in the shell, use a long needle or toothpick (taking care to keep from being lost in food to be ingested) and insert it in the black vein on the back of the shrimp before cooking, going between the sections of the shell. It should pull out in one long piece. If not, repeat the process.

To keep shrimp warm when serving to a crowd:

Remove shrimp from water or grill and move to a cooler. Cover and proceed with another batch.

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Master index to all of Nathalie's cookbooks

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