Thursday, November 13, 2008

From Miranda's Kitchen: Salt Baked Shrimp

Before getting to the recipe, let me share a little technique I've learned that can be used anytime you cook shrimp - a way to make the often sullen and sad shrimp we find on the market today firm, plump and crisp.

Cooking Technique

First off, try to find the best shrimp you can. Wild caught are best, though also usually the most expensive. Avoid any shrimp that have black spots or streaks on the shell (unless you are buying Black Tiger shrimp). Shrimp should smell like the sea, not anything else. Buying shrimp that are still frozen and in the shell is usually going to yielded the freshest results (almost all the shrimp we have access to these days are previously frozen. If you buy the shrimp still frozen then you will know exactly how long they've been thawed).

Thaw (if necessary) and peel and de-vein the shrimp (if the recipe calls for it). Rinse and drain the shrimp. For every 1lb of shrimp, toss with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Let the shrimp sit for at least 20 minutes. Bring a large pot of salted water - use at least 1 Tbs salt (see Steve's Cooking Techniques on boiling water) to a rolling boil. Blanch the shrimp for 15 seconds then quickly transfer to colander and run under cold water to stop the cooking action. This process makes the shrimp plump and crisp by removing all water from the shrimp flesh.

The shrimp are now ready for use in whatever recipe. You can try this technique with the recipe I've posted on this blog for Spicy Shrimp Po'Boys, or with the recipe below for Chinese Salt Baked Shrimp.

Salt Baked Shrimp (adapted from Eileen Yin-Fei Lo's The Chinese Kitchen)

Serves 4

Contrary to what the name of this dish suggests, Salt Baked Shrimp are not baked - they are (yummily) wok-fried. This is a dry, sauce-less dish that is quite spicy.

1 lb shrimp - de-vein and remove the shell (you can leave the tail on)
1 Tbs baking soda
1 Tbs plus 1 tsp kosher salt
3 Tbs cornstarch
1 quart peanut oil
2 Tbs minced hot chilies (you can use all jalapenos or mix a variety of hot peppers for a blend of colors and heat). Include the seeds in the mince for more heat.

For this recipe, you will need the following special equipment:
A wok
A Chinese strainer/wire net basket
A Chinese wooden spatula/paddle for stir-frying

Using the shrimp and baking soda, follow the technique described above to plump the shrimp [mix the shrimp and soda, let sit 20 min then blanch in salted boiling water and rinse under cold].

Pat the shrimp dry and sprinkle them with the cornstarch (toss to coat evenly). Heat your wok (it is important here to use a proper wok) over high heat then add the peanut oil and heat until the oil reaches 350 degrees (use a thermometer to test this - hot enough oil is essential). Place the shrimp in a Chinese strainer and blanch them in the oil for 1 minute (you can do this in batches). Put the oil-blanched shrimp in a strainer and drain off the excess oil in the sink.

Turn off the heat and carefully transfer the hot oil to a metal bowl.
Return 2 Tbs oil to the wok and return the wok to high heat (it might be a good idea to turn on the exhaust over the oven at this point). Add the salt and chilies to the wok and stir-fry (use a flat, wooden spatula for this). Then add all the shrimp and toss and stir them vigorously for approximately 1 minute. They should appear dry and crusted and the chilies should be slightly charred. Turn off the heat and transfer to a serving dish.

I like to serve this dish with sushi rice that has been cooked with a little salt and sesame oil. I've also included a recipe here for a nice broccoli side dish (below).

Broccoli Smothered in Garlic Oil

Serves 4

1 large bunch of broccoli, cut into florets
3 Tbs vegetable oil
10 garlic cloves (whole cloves, peeled)
1 Tbs soy sauce
1 tsp kosher salt

Rinse and dry broccoli florets. Heat a frying pan (or you can use your wok - but if you do so, cook the broccoli before you cook the salt baked shrimp; set the cooked broccoli aside and tent with foil to keep warm while you cook the shrimp). Heat the wok or frying pan over medium high heat and add oil. When hot, add the garlic and saute, tossing the cloves until they turn golden (do not burn them). Add the broccoli. Let it sizzle for 1 minute, then sprinkle with salt, turn the florets over with tongs, and sizzle 1 more minute.

Reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pan or wok with a tight-fitting lid. Cook the broccoli about 8-10 minutes until tender. Uncover and continue cooking until all the moisture that has accumulated evaporates and broccoli is glazed with oil. Increase the heat to medium high again and toss in the soy sauce. Toss with the soy sauce 30 sections and then remove from heat and serve.

Bon Appetit!

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