Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Not for the squeamish

Head on freshwater prawns, from Millersburg, Ohio. Ohio shrimp seemed strange to me too (no jumbo shrimp joke please), especially since they were sold frozen in a block of ice in a way that was less than appetizing. Still, the very same Crocker Park Farmers Market vendor had provided me with some of the best beef I've ever eaten, so who's to say the Mennonites can't raise good shrimp too? And these were good, but they greatly varied in size and weren't quite as nice as the standard supermarket frozen shrimp. While it was nice to know that these shrimp weren't treated with any chemicals prior to being frozen, I'm pretty sure chemical free shrimp are available in the area, and these guys lacked the firm texture that is a big part of what I think makes boiled shrimp so enjoyable.

As for cooking, I went with a tried and true method (I think I saw something similar on a Jacques Pepin show.). I starting by bringing water to a boil. While the water was heating I added diced onion and carrot, peppercorns, salt, bay leaf and thyme (wrapped in cheesecloth), and a couple of good shakes of Old Bay. Once everything came to a boil I tasted for seasoning and added the shrimp. After the shrimp were added I waited for the water to come back to a boil over high heat. Once the water regained its boil I turned off the heat and covered the pot. After about 10 minutes I uncovered the pot, removed the shrimp (and some of the seasonings), and served. It's hard to overcook the shrimp with this method, and making the court bouillon makes a huge difference (Just about anything can be added or omitted--celery is great if you have it laying around.) when compared to shrimp cooked in plain or just salted water.

Overall a satisfying dish. But in the future I'll likely stick with headed, unpeeled shrimp from the store or fishmonger. I'm not convinced an Ohio farmers market is the place to go for these crustaceans.

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