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Grill up some jumbo shrimp

Something to keep in mind when perusing the grocery store aisles is not everything that is for sale is worth eating. Oh sure, we all know about the high fat, low nutrient stuff, but what about the food that could be perfectly tasty but took a wrong turn?

I’m talking about cooked and frozen shrimp. Shrimp is lovely stuff: high in protein, low in fat, easy to cook, great in a taco. But some manufacturers just can’t leave well enough alone. They take unsuspecting shrimp, cook them, freeze them and then foist them off on innocent shoppers. The resulting product is shrimp-shaped mush that no one should spend money on.

Raw shrimp can be frozen and the thawed results are ok, but something about cooking, then freezing ruins everything. To avoid this, one must do two things: 1) forget that cooked frozen shrimp ever existed and 2) buy the good stuff. Your palate will thank you.



Good quality fresh shrimp tastes a lot like fresh lobster. Sweet and juicy, it elevates everything else on the plate. Since spring officially begins on Friday and there are a lot of barbeque grills getting dusted off already, celebrate by procuring some really good shrimp and planning a party for your taste buds.

To barbeque shrimp, plan to use skewers. Wooden ones can usually be bought in packages of 100. Soak the skewers in water for at least an hour prior to putting near heat. Dry skewers will smoke and char in an alarming fashion. I also like to run two through the shrimp, which makes them much easier to flip over.




When selecting the shrimp, look for something large. The shrimp in the photo are Blue Hawaiians, so called because their tails are bright blue when fresh. They are a freshwater shrimp that can sometimes reach a quarter-pound in size. Leaving the heads on while cooking will result in juicier meat, but the tail is the only edible part. They can be found at Nevada City Seafood and are available most of the time.

Because shrimp of this size have lots of meat, stronger flavors can be used that won’t be overwhelming. Cajun seasoning goes very well with fresh shrimp. The recipe below makes about 1 1/4 cups and only about 2 tablespoons is needed. Store the extra in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 3 months. It works on chicken, ribs, pasta and potatoes.

Sprinkle some seasonings on the shrimp, thread on to pre-soaked skewers and pop onto a hot grill or under a broiler. Flip after a minute or so and cook the other side. When the shrimp is just pink, remove from the heat and serve over hot rice. Brushing a little melted butter over the cooked shrimp is a nice touch.

Chef Kady Guyton be reached by email at kady@kdgcooks.com. An archive of past columns can be found at http://www.kdgcooks.com. She also welcomes readers questions and requests.

(Makes 1 1/4 cups)

Ingredients:

1/3 cup kosher salt

1/4 cup chili powder

1/4 cup Hungarian paprika

1 Tablespoon onion powder

1 Tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper

1 Tablespoon dried basil

1 Tablespoon dried oregano

1 Tablespoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon cumin

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

Directions:

Combine salt, chili powder, paprika, onion powder, black pepper, basil, oregano, coriander, cayenne pepper, thyme, cumin, and white pepper until well-mixed.

Place the spice mix in a glass jar and seal tightly. Store in a cool, dark place up to 3 months.


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