Legerdemain --our esoteric term for "shrimp tips" -- is a collection of useful tips and shortcuts which you can use to make your spells even more spellbinding. In this area we also cover the various different preparation techniques which are used for serving shrimps and prawns.
If you want to enhance the texture of your shrimps you can do it by soaking it in brine for an hour or so.
For enough brine for 2 pounds (1 kg) of shrimp dissolve a cup of sea salt and 1/2 a cup of sugar into 2 cups of hot water. To go even another step further and flavor your brine heat it to a simmering point then take if off the heat and add a few sprigs of fresh tarragon, marjoram, thyme, or a bit of chopped fennel and let it cool.
While the brine is still warm (but not hot), add a tray of ice cubes, or if you don't have ice handy, add an extra cup of cool water and chill the brine in the refrigerator.
Soak your peeled shrimp from 20 to 40 minutes in the brine, 20 minutes for medium shrimp, up to 40 for jumbos. If your shrimp is unpeeled, double the time for soaking.
How much Shrimp?
For each serving of 7 ounces of peeled shrimp you'll need 9 ounces of headless shrimp before peeling. To get this from head-on (HOSO) shrimp, you'll start with 1 pound.
So, for one, main-course serving using sized shrimp you'd need:
- 4 jumbo shrimp*
- 5 extra large shrimp*
- 7 large shrimp*
- 9 medium shrimp*
* With sized shrimp don't worry whether they are head on or headless, when calculating quantity.
How to Cook Shrimp
In the USA shrimp is sized according to the number it takes to make a pound.
- 10 shrimp or less = Colossal
- 11 to 15 = Jumbo
- 16 to 20 = Extra-large
- 21 to 30 = Large
- 31 to 35 = Medium
- 36 to 45 = Small
- about 100 = Miniature
Shrimp is highly perishable. Choose firm shrimp with a mild scent. If you get any hint of an ammonia smell, the shrimp is way past its desirable state.
If you notice spots it may not be spoiled but it is an indication of poor handling.
"Fresh" shrimp is mostly frozen shrimp which has been defrosted, and the flesh will appear opaque. Really fresh shrimp has almost translucent flesh.
Do not confuse the term "fresh" with never-frozen. It is very unusual to ever find never-frozen shrimp fresh from the ocean unless you have a friend who is a shrimp fisherman or you catch it yourself. This is not necessarily a bad thing. These days, shrimp is harvested, cleaned, and flash frozen right on the boat so you get a fresher product, until it reaches the market.
Once it reaches the market, freshness depends on the handlers. If it goes right into the freezer, all is well. If you are buying from the seafood counter, there is no telling how long that shrimp has been defrosted, although icing it does help. You are better off buying frozen shrimp and defrosting it yourself in the refrigerator because it does not take long to thaw.
You might also want to read about Storing Shrimp.
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