How to cook shrimp

Dear Lynne,
 
I've never ventured beyond sautéing beef and pork. I'd love to try shrimp. What should I know?
 
-Joely in Tucson

Dear Joely,

Trust your common sense, your sense of touch and your taste.

Don't overcook is the mantra for all fish, especially for shrimp. The moment shrimp is just-firm, get it out of the pan. It will continue cooking as you let it rest for 3 to 5 minutes. 

I like to cook shrimp over medium to medium-low heat so I have as much control as possible. They stay juicy with this method as well. Check for doneness by gently poking with your finger. The shrimp will go from soft to just-a-little-give as it cooks. At that point where it feels almost firm, get it out of the pan. 

Another key to success is cooking seasonings or pan sauces before or after the shrimp is in the pan. For instance, if you are doing shrimp in a tomato sauce, no matter what the recipe says, cook the sauce until it's ready to serve and then add the shrimp to it. Or if the recipe has you making a pan sauce with the shrimp, cook them in the pan, get them out, and then add the sauce ingredients. You can always add the shrimp back for a few seconds to coat them with the sauce.

This basic sauté from the Adriatic coast of Italy illustrates some of these techniques. Vary the ingredients to your heart's content. Do file away this trick of plumping shrimp in brine. It works well for scallops too.

-Lynne

Plump Shrimp with Chile and Sun-Dried Tomato
20 minutes prep time, 20 minutes brine time; about 10 minutes stove time. Serves 4

  • 1-1/2 pounds jumbo shrimp (8 to 10 per pound), shelled and deveined with tails left intact
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 cups ice water 
  • 3 to 4 sun-dried tomatoes plumped 10 minutes in hot water, drained 
  • 3 large cloves garlic
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 3 tightly-packed tablespoons parsley
  • 3 tablespoons good-tasting extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 large lemon cut into 8 wedges
1. Plump the shrimp by combining them with the 2 tablespoons salt and 4 cups ice water. Refrigerate 20 minutes, but no more. Meanwhile, mince together the tomatoes, garlic and parsley. Turn into a medium bowl and stir in hot pepper and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil.

2. Drain, rinse and pat shrimp dry. Toss them with the tomato mixture. Keep cold.

3. Lightly film a large skillet with olive oil. Heat pan over medium heat. Sauté shrimp seasonings 1 minute.

4. Add shrimp, sprinkling with salt and pepper. Sauté about 2 minutes per side, or until pink and just firm. Pile all the seasonings atop the shrimp when you turn them. Turn the finished shrimp onto a serving platter and scrape out all the seasonings over them. Serve the dish hot or warm with the lemon wedges. Squeeze a little lemon over the shrimp just before eating.

Leftovers are excellent in a salad of greens and tomatoes.

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