While shrimp have their place throughout the year, I find that they have a natural fit in the warmer months. Shrimp have an affinity for lighter flavors, but can also hold up to flavors that are more assertive. Now that it's summertime, it's a great time to share few ideas for how you can take advantage of the South's bountiful and delicious shrimp in a few easy recipes.
A few suggestions first: if you live near a region where shrimp are caught regularly, try to get your hands on fresh shrimp. If not, look for frozen shrimp that are caught domestically. And remember, when cooking shrimp do everything you can to not overcook them — usually only two to three minutes is necessary. Otherwise you run the risk of making them rubbery, instead of sweet and succulent.
Frogmore Stew (Lowcountry Boil)
A Lowcountry classic, Frogmore stew is basically a shrimp boil that takes its name from a fishing community near Beaufort, South Carolina. When preparing a Frogmore stew, you can opt for a tomato-based broth or seasoned boiling water. If you’re feeding a large crowd or hosting a party, I like option B because you have the option to customize the cooking liquid to your liking. The recipe calls simply for boiling salted water, but you can punch up the flavor by adding halved yellow onions, bay leaves, halved lemons, Old Bay, and even beer. Success lies in adding the ingredients in stages, depending on how long each ingredient will need to cook. Start with the potatoes, then add the sausage to help flavor the liquid. Next, add the corn, then the shrimp during the final two to three minutes of cooking. Serve with lemons, cocktail sauce, and plenty of cold beer.
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Coastal Shrimp Spaghetti
For those nights when you’re looking to prepare a simple supper of a few fresh ingredients, I implore you to try out this shrimp spaghetti recipe. Chef Zeb Stevenson of Atlanta’s venerable Watershed highlights local shrimp with bright and clean flavors, then tosses them with freshly cooked spaghetti. Working quickly and with good heat control is the key to this dish, as you’re building the sauce in the pan, starting with the shrimp. The tomatoes will break down and contribute acidity to the dish, while the butter will provide just enough richness to coat the pasta. If the final dish isn’t saucy enough for your liking (it should just barely coat the pasta), add a few tablespoons of pasta water while tossing in the hot spaghetti.
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Pickled Shrimp Salad
If I’m ever asked to contribute a dish for a potluck, pickled shrimp is one of my stalwart selections. The dish is best when prepared four to six hours in advance so the shrimp have a chance to absorb all the flavors. Using onion as your aromatic vegetable is most traditional, but thinly shaved fennel would also be wonderful. Make sure to stir the dish every hour to agitate the oil and vinegar combo. I would serve this with saltine crackers, grilled or toasted bread, or lettuce wraps.
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Chef Jeffrey Gardner is a native of Natchez, Miss., and a graduate of Millsaps College and Johnson & Wales University. He lives in Atlanta and has served as sous chef for popular restaurants South City Kitchen Midtown and Alma Cocina. In 2013 he became executive chef for East Cobb restaurant Common Quarter and was named one of ten “Next Generation of Chefs to Watch” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle. He has appeared on TV shows including Food Network’s Chopped and Cooking Channel’s How to Live to 100, and also filmed a series of healthy cooking videos with retired pro wrestler and fitness guru Diamond Dallas Page. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling the world with his wife Wendy, watching game shows and “spending all his money on Bruce Springsteen concerts.”