My friend Lorna said she thought I should focus some attention on seafood cookery. She’s convinced that most people don’t have a clue how to move beyond their one recipe for sword fish. Or tuna. Or flounder. That, when confronted with any other fish, they are paralyzed with fear. I have a feeling Lorna is right. And I do plan to share her recipe for Black Bass in the near future. Today, I am sharing a fantastic recipe for Shrimp from The New York Times. As this recipe proves, it’s hard to find any seafood quicker or easier to cook than Shrimp. This a recipe is so quick to cook, you better have everything ready to go before the first shrimp hits the pan. It’s loaded with the flavor and the scent of cumin, ginger and garlic. I served it with one of the finds from my most recent trip to Southeast Asia, Garlic Fried Rice, a recipe so satisfying and so easy, you may never cook rice any other way. But first of all, let’s talk Shrimp.
The Monterey Bay’s Seafood Watch (www.seafoodwatch.org) is a resource every good cook should know about and use. The group monitors seafood and can quickly provide information on what’s sustainable, what technique is used to catch it, and where farmed varieties can be used without any environmental or health concerns. The ratings fall into three categories: “Best Choice”, “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid”. Unfortunately Shrimp is a kind of seafood minefield. Some 90 percent of shrimp sold in this country is imported. Imported Farm-raised shrimp is high on the “Avoid” list. It includes shrimp or prawns from China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mexico, Nicaragua, Thailand and Viet Nam and giant tiger prawns from Bangladesh. One look at a very dicey-looking shrimp farm in Vietnam last year was all it took to realize wild caught is the way to go. But even then Seafoodwatch has quite an “Avoid” list of wild caught shrimp that are no-gos including 1) ridgeback prawns from California; 2) shrimp caught with skimmer trawls in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, except Florida; 3) shrimp caught in Mexico’s Gulf of Mexico, except brown shrimp caught with cast nets; 4) multiple sources of blue, whiteleg and yellowleg shrimp caught on Mexico’s Pacific Coast; 5) Atlantic seabob from Guyana and 6) Argentine red shrimp from Argentina. This last one really hurt because I’ve been buying frozen Argentine red shrimp by the bagful at Trader Joe’s.
When I went to the fishmonger, he pointed me in the direction of Wild Caught Colossal Shrimp from the Gulf Coast. At some point you have to just trust someone’s professionalism. Because there’s even a differentiation between Shrimp caught in bottom trawls and those caught in skimmer trawls. But there is one surefire way to know you’ve bought the right shrimp. “Best Choice” in Shrimp is Northern shrimp caught with traps in Nova Scotia, Canada and all other Canadian sources are “Good Alternatives”. Oh Canada!
At any rate, my shrimp were beautiful. They really were Colossal in the strange language of Shrimp where something about 2 ½ inches in size is called “Jumbo”. They were cleaned but unshelled. In fact, de-shelling the Shrimp was about the longest part of this whole recipe. I’d upped the original recipes call for 1 ½ lbs. of Shrimp and went with 2 lbs. The original recipe made much of how the cooked Shrimp could be folded into soft tortillas, decked out with avocado to make shrimp tacos. They could also be served atop a red or green cabbage salad. But the way that appealed to me most was over rice.
I have consciously avoided cooking rice for years. Gummy, sodden, and just too bland for my tastes, I ended up throwing most of it away. Then, at an Asian cooking class I took in Bali, Indonesia, I learned how to make Garlic Fried Rice. Fried is a bit of misnomer. Cooked rice is sautéed in a couple tablespoons of oil with lots and lots of sliced garlic. Garlic Salt is showered over the rice along with a couple of turns of the black pepper mill. What emerges is beautifully aromatic rice that adds immeasurably to whatever is served over it. As to cooking the rice itself, it’s really a case of less is more. Jasmine rice is Thai in origin and it is so named because it smells like jasmine with a hint of popcorn. I find that a single cup of dry rice is enough for 4 servings. Package instructions say to rinse the rice several times. In Bali, I learned to soak the rice for about 20 minutes, stirring it occasionally which turns the water milky white. When ready to cook the rice, strain all the water from the rice. Put the rice back in the pot and add just 1-1/8th cup of water. Then heat the water to a boil and immediately shut down the heat and put the lid on the pot and let it rest 18-20 minutes. When ready to make the Garlic Fried Rice, just fluff it up and add to the garlic and oil. The recipe follows. Interestingly, in South East Asia, no one saves leftover rice. In Bali, it’s often used in food offerings to the Hindu Gods but it is never used a second day. Here’s the recipe for the Shrimp and one for Garlic Fried Rice. After the recipes, another couple of great things you can make with Shrimp.
Cumin Lime Shrimp with Ginger
A flavorful combination of cumin, garlic and ginger enlivens this wonderful quick-to-cook Shrimp dish.
- 1 ½ pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (16 to 20 count)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 ½ teaspoons grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- Pinch of red-pepper flakes (optional)
- ¼ cup lime juice
- 1 teaspoon lime zest
- 3 tablespoons roughly chopped cilantro
- Step 1 In a large bowl, toss together the shrimp and the cumin until well coated. Season with kosher salt and toss again.
- Step 2 Heat the olive oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Add half the shrimp to the pan in one layer and cook undisturbed until they just start turning pink, about 1 minute. Flip and cook for about 1 minute more, then remove from the pan and set aside. They may not be fully cooked at this time, and that’s O.K. Repeat with remaining shrimp and leave in the pan.
- Step 3 Add the reserved shrimp back to the pan with any juices that have accumulated. Stir in the ginger, garlic and red-pepper flakes, if using, and cook for about 30 seconds, stirring to make sure the garlic doesn’t burn. Add the lime juice to pan and scrape up any brown bits that have formed at the bottom of the pan. Cook until the mixture is reduced by about half, about 1 minute more. Stir in the lime zest and scatter with the cilantro. Season with flaky salt, if desired.
Garlic Fried Rice
This flavorful side dish is a garlic lovers delight.
- 1 cup Jasmine Rice
- 3 tbsp. Canola or Vegetable Oil
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced into 1/16th-inch slices
- 2 tbsp. Garlic Salt
- Fresh Ground Pepper
- Scallions to garnish the dish (Optional)
- Step 1 Soak the rice in a saucepan, stirring occasionally for 20 minutes
- Step 2 Strain the rice and run it under cold water.
- Step 3 Put the rice back in the saucepan and add 1 1/8th cups cold water.
- Step 4 Bring water to a boil and the minute it boils, turn off the heat. Cover tightly for 18-20 minutes.
- Step 5 In a large non-stick skillet, add the oil, turn the heat to medium and swirl it around.
- Step 6 Add the sliced garlic and lightly brown.
- Step 7 Fluff the rice and add it to the garlic and oil in the skillet.
- Step 8 Using a wooden spoon or spatula, turn the rice over several times In the skillet. Add the garlic salt and the pepper and continue turning the rice. When it has achieved a light brown color, it is ready to serve.