It’s true that every shrimp has a tail, but not every shrimp has a story. At least, not a very good one. The story behind Wild American Shrimp, however, is rich with history, heritage and most importantly, flavor.
I had the pleasure of meeting the folks at Wild American Shrimp (hey guys!) back in June at the Sustainable Seafood Blog Conference in New Orleans. Aside from eating all.of.the.shrimp, I sat in on various panels and discussions that taught me more about the local shrimping industry than I ever knew existed. Having gone to college in Louisiana, I was already well aware of the delicacy that is Wild American Shrimp, but I never knew quite how important their story is. I say delicacy, because that’s exactly what they are.
Shrimp are the number one most commonly consumed seafood in America by a long shot. And yet an astonishing 90% of those shrimp are coming from places other than the United States. The shrimp we buy at supermarkets and get served in restaurants are more often than not imported from a Thai, Indonesian or Vietnamese farm where the conditions are far from ideal. The shrimp tend to be flavorless with a spongy texture, and are problematic on many levels ranging from the chemicals and antibiotics they’re pumped with to the pollution and devastation the farms contribute to local communities.
Because of such poor conditions, the farmers are able to keep costs way down, making them easy and cheap to serve at an all-you-can-eat shrimp buffet. But it’s no secret that when it comes to food, quality is more important than quantity. And I’d rather eat one Wild American Shrimp than 100 farm raised Asian shrimp any day. Ok, actually, I don’t think I’d ever eat 100 of any kind of shrimp in one sitting, but
you guys y’all get my point.
The Bluewater Shrimp Company out of Dulac, Louisiana was kind enough to ship me 3 pounds of their gorgeous head-on, wild-caught Louisiana white shrimp for this post. Like many other shrimpers in the gulf, The Bluewater Shrimp Company is a small, family owned business that works hard to maintain the integrity of their product. The difference between these shrimp and the imported ones we’re all used to eating is astonishing. These shrimp actually taste like shrimp! They’re sweet and slightly briny with a firm, snappy texture. Really, really tasty stuff. Wanna try them for yourself? They’ll ship them to you anywhere in the country!
Of all the ways I know how to cook shrimp, for this post I wanted to do something inspired by the years I lived in Louisiana. To me, the perfect Louisiana meal must be comprised of something seafood, something fried in cornmeal, and something spicy, plus extra points for something pickled.
Pickled shrimp are a southern Louisiana specialty. They’re bright, tangy, a little bit spicy and completely addictive. Plus, they make the perfect accoutrement to go on top of a fried green tomato: another Southern staple, and also, a Coley Cooks staple. Ripe or unripe, a tomato is a tomato!
Last week I discovered a good bit of blight had set in on one of my tomato plants, so I pulled it out in order to keep it from spreading to the others. There were about 4 good sized green tomatoes hanging on the vine, so I plucked them off, coated them in cornmeal, and sent them off to get crispy in a cast iron pan. Talk about good timing!
To tie the whole thing together, I whipped up a batch of Creole remoulade. I learned how to make this stuff from the chef at a restaurant I used to work at in Baton Rouge. He was a Mississippi boy, but his remoulade was the best I ever tasted. The crispy fried green tomatoes, the zippy pickled shrimp and the smooth, spicy remoulade come together to make this southern Louisiana inspired nostalgia on a plate. Add a little red beans and rice or a loaf of French bread, and you’ve got yourself one heck of a meal.
Thank you so much to the Bluewater Shrimp Company for donating the shrimp for this post! To learn more about Wild American Shrimp and why you should be concerned about where your shrimp comes from, check out their website here.
For more Southern + Louisiana inspired grub, check out some of these posts:
All of the Food in New Orleans
Warm Cheesy Bacon Dip
New Orleans Style “BBQ” Clams
Cheddar + Beer Biscuits
Sweet Potato + Bacon Hash with Crispy Fried Eggs (Video!)
- 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
- 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
- 2 bay leaves, torn or crumbled
- 1 bunch lemon thyme or regular thyme (optional)
- 1 clove garlic, smashed
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 tablespoon hot sauce, or to taste (I prefer Crystal)
- 1/2 sweet onion (like Vidalia), thinly sliced
- 1 lb Wild American Shrimp, peeled and deveined (26-30 is a good size)
- Crush the celery seed, mustard seed, pepper corns and coriander seed by using a mortar and pestle, or place them in a plastic bag and use a meat mallet to pound them. You want the seeds to be coarsely ground, not a fine powder. Combine the spices along with the bay, thyme, garlic, salt, sugar, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil and hot sauce in a medium sized bowl, and whisk together until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Place the onions in the brine, then pop it in the fridge to chill while you cook the shrimp.
- Bring a medium pot of water up to a boil, and add in any aromatics if desired (I added the lemon rinds, some extra bay leaves and thyme). Drop in the shrimp and cook for about 90 seconds to 2 minutes, depending on size, until they're bright pink and just barely cooked through. Remove the shrimp, and allow them to drain for a few seconds to avoid diluting the brine. Then, drop them right into the pickling liquid, and mix them around to coat. Spoon the shrimp and onions into a jar or container, pour the remaining brine over, cover and refrigerate. Allow the shrimp to chill and pickle for at least a few hours, but overnight is best.
- Serve with fried green tomatoes and Creole remoulade, or with toasted bread.
- *any size shrimp may be used, but the bigger they are, the less pickley they'll be throughout.
- **Some or all of the spices may be omitted if you don't have them lying around. I happened to have all on hand, so I went for it, but the shrimp will still turn out well without them - just don't skip the onions, salt or pepper.
- 2 pounds unripe green tomatoes (about 4)
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 cup flour
- 1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
- 2 eggs beaten with 2 tablespoons water
- grapeseed, canola, vegetable or another oil for frying
- Slice the tomatoes into 1/2 inch thick rounds, then season each one with salt and pepper. Combine the yellow cornmeal and Creole seasoning together in a shallow dish, then place the flour in another. Set up an assembly line with the tomatoes, flour, beaten egg, and cornmeal.
- Dip each tomato in the flour, then tap to release any excess. Next, dunk it into the egg mixture and allow the excess to drip off. Then, into the cornmeal. Be sure to get every nook and cranny coated, and place on a plate to set up while you finish the rest.
- Heat the oil in a large skillet - cast iron is best - to medium high heat. The oil is ready when a small bit of flour sizzles when sprinkled in. Working in batches, fry the tomatoes, turning once, until they are golden brown on each side. Remove the tomatoes to paper towels to drain, then sprinkle them with a little bit of salt as soon as the come out of the oil. Repeat with the remaining.
- Serve immediately, with Creole remoulade on the side.
- *Your favorite gluten-free flour may be substituted for the wheat flour for a totally gluten-free dish.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Creole mustard (substitute stone ground dijon)
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce (I like Crystal)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
- 1 tablespoon ketchup
- 1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (use less if sensitive to heat)
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
- Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Cover and store in the refrigerator for up to one week.