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Shrimp, which used to be a delicacy, is now ubiquitous. Frozen shrimp, already peeled and deveined, but with the tail left on, is readily available and used by home cooks and restaurant chefs alike. “P-and-D” shrimp is super-easy to use and requires virtually no prep work other than defrosting and cooking. It is a rare restaurant or cook who does not use peeled-and-deveined shrimp.

The problem is, P-and-D shrimp do not taste very good. They are flavorless with poor texture. The texture has been ruined because they were frozen without their protective shell. Plus, the shrimp were “IQF” — individually quick frozen, as opposed to frozen in a block, which furthers ruins their texture. Because the tails are left on these shrimp, some cooks are even too lazy to remove the tail shell, so the diner is forced to pick the shells out of the prepared dish. Seventy-five percent of shrimp is grown in Asia, mostly China and Thailand, which includes all of the “P-and-D” shrimp. Less than one percent of shrimp is harvested in the United States. Most shrimp is farmed, not wild-caught.

I love shrimp and I want the flavor of the shrimp to shine in a dish — not have a pink, chewy crescent that is only good as a vehicle for horseradish. The only shrimp I will buy or eat is “shell-on” shrimp. The shrimp can be cooked in the shell or hand-peeled and deveined by the cook before cooking. Yes, shell-on shrimp is laborious to shell and devein, but the flavor is well-worth the effort. This shrimp is tender. Generally, these shrimp are frozen in a five-pound block. (All shrimp is frozen; finding never-frozen shrimp requires joining a shrimping expedition.)

Shrimp cooks very fast and most shrimp is overcooked. I recommend cooking shrimp for one minute, which results in tender and flavorful shrimp. If you have never eaten a perfectly cooked shrimp, you may think the shrimp is undercooked. It is not; it’s just not overcooked, so it doesn’t taste like a rubber ball.

Years ago, a customer requested a shrimp recipe in a Dijon mustard-cream sauce and it became a staff favorite as an elegant first course:

Shrimp Dijon

  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons minced shallots
  • 1/4 cup cognac
  • 1/4 cup dry vermouth
  • 2/3 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 pound shell-on shrimp, peeled and deveined

Melt the butter in a large fry pan and saute the shallots for a minute. Add the cognac and flame. Add the vermouth. Whisk in the cream and mustard and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook for until just pink (less than a minute, depending on the size of the shrimp). Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately.

2 Comments for “How to Buy and Cook Shrimp: Shrimp Dijon Recipe”  

  1. Tina Schulte

    You are absolutely correct on all points and I am so glad to have someone with your culinary credits say so!

  2. Anne

    Thank you, Tina.