Despite the fact that most shrimp that show up on your plate in restaurants are headless, it’s sometimes unfortunate if they’re cooked like that. There’s lots of flavor to be had by cooking the shrimp with the heads and shells intact. Yes, shrimp can be messy if you have to dig in with your hands to shell the cooked shrimp. And it can involve some knife skills if you must be prim and proper. But when you cook your shrimp “au naturel,” they’re going to taste better. Lots of folks say they don’t like shrimp, and that’s likely due to the fact that their “shrimp experience” is based on eating those watery, Asian farm-raised cocktail shrimp that appear on holiday and cruise ship buffets worldwide. Wild-caught Florida shrimp are a different animal, and they lend themselves to a number of tasty recipes, other than boiled.
Examples like blackened shrimp, coconut shrimp and Buffalo hot shrimp are all popular with American palates. And for those of us who enjoy the flavor of wild-caught shrimp, there’s no better recipe than BBQ shrimp, Cajun-style. The trick to the taste is to use BIG head-on shrimp and to keep the preparation and presentation as simple as possible. Those big shrimp heads hold the real secret ingredient, fat. And after they simmer in a simple sauce of Cajun spices, beer, butter and lemon juice, you’ll taste the difference. Just remember to bring lots of napkins to the table, and don’t forget to suck the fat from the shrimp heads! FS
2 pounds jumbo or colossal Florida shrimp, head on
1 can lager beer
1⁄2 stick unsalted butter
3 tbsp. Cajun spice or rub 2 tbsp. BBQ sauce
1 tsp. Tabasco sauce
In a large saucepan, bring the beer to a slow boil, then stir in the butter, 2 tbsp. of the spice mix, juice from 2 lemons, the Tabasco and the BBQ sauce. Add shrimp in small batches, taking care not to crowd the pan. Cook shrimp on both sides until done, 2 or 3 minutes per side. Tip: properly cooked shrimp should look like Cs, not Os, in order to not be tough and rubbery. Finally, dust with the last of the spice rub and serve with crusty French bread and a squeeze of lemon.