Louisiana shrimpers have been all over the airwaves these days because their prime fishing areas have been off limits as a result of the massive oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
I am second to none in my concern for this situation, but I’m also concerned about the panic being spread by certain elements of the media – that the demise of our seafood supply is at hand. While it is true that Gulf of Mexico products will be in very short supply for quite some time to come, there is other seafood to be had. I certainly do not minimize this disaster. I think it’s absolutely dreadful. I am an adherent to sustainability in our food supply. I believe we should all make certain that what we buy and consume can be replaced and that we are not intentionally overfishing or overharvesting certain species of fish and seafood so that they become endangered.
The shrimp and other seafood we buy in our stores are generally farm-raised. It does not come from Louisiana. Gulf (of Mexico) shrimp can be had – but at a substantially higher price, largely because of the shipping and handling costs. And this isn’t the first time a man-made disaster has affected the bounty of the Gulf.
Many years ago, when Cajun cuisine burst on the scene, all the rage was ‘blackened redfish.” Redfish was, at one time, classified as a “junk” fish, meaning that it was so plentiful that commercial fishermen usually threw it away or threw it back.
But once the dining public began clamoring for this poster child for Cajun cuisine, it soon became over-fished and authorities had to temporarily ban harvesting redfish. Clandestine servings of redfish suddenly were priced in the stratosphere because of the shortage.
It was also around this time that farm-raised fish and seafood began to come into its own. Most of the catfish and a lot of the salmon we now eat, for instance, are farm-raised. There are “factory farms” with thousands of acres of pools where fish are fed strict diets to fatten them quickly and, in the case of salmon, have color added to make the product look more like salmon. The fact is that farm-raising yields a rather colorless version.
You may also be surprised to learn that much of the shrimp we buy comes from the waters of Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries and much of it, too, is farm-raised.
But like gasoline, fish and seafood are about to become a fungible commodity. You’ll see fluctuating prices – but you can count on most of those fluctuations going in an upward direction. So before that happens, here’s one of my favorite shrimp recipes – one that I refer to as my “go-to” shrimp appetizer when unexpected guests stop by.
20 large shrimp, frozen, peels on but deveined
1 tablespoon white vinegar, or juice from half a lemon
4 Tbsp. butter, unsalted
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/3 cup bread crumbs, seasoned
Spicy seafood sauce:
1/3 cup ketchup
1/4 cup horseradish sauce
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add vinegar or squeeze in lemon juice. Slowly add shrimp one or two at a time and let water return to the boil. As shrimp turn opaque pink, remove them to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.
Peel shrimp and reserve shells to make shrimp stock another time. Reserve shrimp, covered, in refrigerator until ready for second stage of cooking.
In a small glass bowl, mix ketchup, horseradish sauce and lemon juice until fully incorporated. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat and melt the butter with the oil. Add minced garlic and swirl around to flavor the butter/oil mixture. Add shrimp and toss in the garlic butter until shrimp are slightly firm.
Sprinkle breadcrumbs over shrimp and toss to coat. Divide shrimp evenly on plates and serve with spicy seafood sauce.
Follow me on Twitter @KitchenGuyMT
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