I keep a bag of frozen shrimp, already peeled and deveined, in my freezer at all times. It’s become a staple in my kitchen. Why? My peeps love them and I love that they’re quick to thaw, even faster to cook and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make them taste good. A little spice, a quick sauté, and they’re ready to go. Cooking shrimp can be a breeze. Here are my tips for cooking shrimp to guide you through it.
Frozen vs. Fresh
In most cases, buying the fresh version of a food is best. Shrimp are the exception to the rule. Most shrimp, even the shrimp often sold as fresh in the supermarket, is flash frozen immediately after being caught. The IQF label, individually quick frozen, means the shrimp are flash frozen individually to prevent them from freezing together in the bag. They also thaw faster when frozen individually. If you’re buying fresh shrimp from a provider you trust and it’s truly freshly caught, fresh is awesome. If you’re not certain, stick with frozen. Frozen also gives you the convenience of buying your shrimp already peeled and deveined, a fantastic timesaver.
If you can plan ahead, you can thaw your shrimp in the fridge overnight. If you’re like me and usually find yourself scrambling through the freezer just before dinner time, here’s the solution to thawing shrimp quickly and safely.
Remove frozen shrimp from the bag and place it in a colander or bowl. Place the colander in the sink and run cold water over the shrimp for 10-15 minutes, until completely thawed.
Be sure the water is cold. Hot water may seem like a faster fix but you run the risk of warming the shrimp’s temperature into the time temperature danger zone, which can encourage bacteria growth. Ick.
Shrimp absorb flavors quickly so there’s no need to marinate them for more than 30 minutes to an hour. Any longer and you run the risk of ruining the shrimp’s texture. If your marinade has any acid in it – citrus juice or vinegar – stick to 30 minutes. The acid can start to cook the shrimp. (It’ll look white along the edges.)
Shrimp gives you a clear signal when it’s done. Its color changes from dull grey to bright pink. Once it’s pink on all sides, get it off. the. heat. Otherwise you’ll end up with chewy, dry, tough shrimp when it should be moist and tender.
Southwest Shrimp Stacks
You can practice cooking shrimp to perfection with these Southwest Shrimp Stacks, a delicious pile of Chipotle-Goat Cheese Guacamole (yes, goat cheese! Yum!), sautéed onions and peppers and, of course, shrimp marinated in a blend of spices and sautéed.
Get at this one! You can thank me later.
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Pinch black pepper
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced
- 1 small red bell pepper, sliced
- ½ cup fresh or frozen corn
- ½ cup chopped cilantro
- 1 tablespoon freshly-squeezed lime juice
Chipotle Goat Cheese Guacamole:
- 1 medium ripe avocado
- 2 tablespoons goat cheese
- ½ chipotle in adobo, minced (to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- pinch pepper
- 2 sandwich thins
- Combine all marinade ingredients in a large, resealable plastic bag. Add shrimp and marinate 20-30 minutes.
- Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, 2-3 minutes.
- Remove shrimp from marinade and add to pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp is fully cooked and pink, 3-5 minutes. Add corn and cilantro and cook until corn is heated through, another 2-3 minutes. Stir in lime juice and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Cut avocado in half. Remove the seed and use a spoon to scoop out the flesh. Place the flesh in a medium bowl and mash it with a fork until smooth. Stir in goat cheese, chipotle pepper, salt and pepper.
Toast Sandwich Thins:
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Separate sandwich thins and place them on a baking sheet. Toast until crisp, 4-6 minutes.
- Spread about 2 tablespoons guacamole on toasted sandwich thins. Top with sautéed onions and peppers and shrimp.
- Optional: Garnish with sour cream.
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