Landlocked Arkansas celebrates shrimp

Adrienne Freeman/Contributing writer Originally Published May 2, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
Updated May 1, 2013 at 11:10 a.m.
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Adrienne Freeman

Classic shrimp cocktail served with remoulade or tangy cocktail sauce is the perfect start to any meal. Chilled, boiled shrimp can be served individually for a dramatic start or on a big platter, family style, for a more casual affair.

With not one day, but two, set aside in the first days of May to commemorate that singularly deliciously crustacean the shrimp, it apparently deserves recognition.

Shrimp is often advertised not only as a delicacy, but a rare treat to transform a plain meal into a seafood celebration. Perceived as rare, shrimp is widely available throughout the world, whether wild grown or commercially farmed. Sweet, mild and firm, this shellfish is so versatile, it can stand on its own with only a tidbit of sauce to complement it or as part of a more complex dish, acting as a supporting player to other rich ingredients such as butter, lemon and garlic.

Here in landlocked Arkansas, we can rely on our neighbors to the south, an area marketed as the Emerald Coast but more casually known as the “Redneck Riviera” — the Florida Panhandle and extensive beach areas that extend to Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, popular perky pink shrimp and their milder white cousins are caught by the tons in the warm waters off the shore — more than 175 million pounds annually, more than 82 percent of the U.S. total.

Arkansas’ proximity to this region means our residents have ready access to some of the freshest and best seafood. The succulent shrimp, briny oysters, meaty scallops and numerous varieties of hearty fish, such as amberjack and grouper, make for delicious and healthful dinners.

Fish is a low-fat, high-quality protein. Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids and vitamins such as D and B2 and is rich in calcium, phosphorus and other minerals, such as iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium and potassium. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week as part of a healthy diet. Fish is packed with protein, vitamins and nutrients that can lower blood pressure and help reduce the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Whether acquired fresh off the boat or purchased in the landlocked Natural State, seafood is quick and easy to prepare. Little cooking is required — shrimp can be ready to serve in about three minutes. Sauces and seasoning are usually simple to allow the seafood’s flavor to shine through.

Arkansas-based Doug Stelly, the owner of Who Dat’s Cajun Restaurant and a companion market, Big Bayou, that is just around the corner, brings in the best from the coast. The successful market carries fresh and frozen seafood, alligator and an array of other specialty foods.

“What I’ve done is taken is a little bit of Louisiana and my culture, my way of life, and put it in this place,” Stelly said.

Fresh or frozen shrimp is easy to cook and prepare. For “peel ’em and eat ’em” or other simple dishes, make sure to devein the shrimp or remove the “bloodline.” This is the dark digestive tract that runs the length of the shrimp and is easily removed with a deveining tool or a sharp paring knife. Any shrimp purchased pre-cooked or previously shelled is usually deveined.

Easy Shrimp Boil

For casual serving, line the table top with newspapers and pour the shrimp out for all to enjoy, or serve with a spicy remoulade for a classic shrimp cocktail. Crabs or crawfish can easily be added at the same time as the shrimp.

Ingredients:

Crab boil seasoning, 2 teaspoons per quart of water

One lemon, halved and squeezed

3 pounds fresh shrimp, deveined

Directions:

Fill a large pot with enough water to cover all of the ingredients. Add the crab boil seasoning and bring to a boil. Adjust the amount to taste. When the water is boiling, drop in the shrimp, stir well, cover and remove from heat. When the shrimp is opaque, about 3 to 5 minutes, it is done. Peel and serve with remoulade sauce.

Remoulade Sauce

Recipe from KJ’s Restaurant

This tangy sauce is great with all kinds of seafood. Try it served with boiled shrimp, alongside crab cakes or in fish tacos.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup lemon juice

3/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup onion

1/2 cup green onion

1/4 cup celery

2 tablespoons garlic

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish

3 tablespoons whole-grain mustard

3 tablespoons yellow mustard

6 tablespoons ketchup

6 tablespoons mayo

1 tablespoon parsley

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions:

Put all ingredients in food processor and puree.

Garlic Shrimp and Scallops

This recipe calls for the smaller bay scallops, which have superior sweetness and are perfect for recipes where more than one type of seafood is used. Larger sea scallops are best suited for pan-seared scallop presentations.

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon olive oil

2 tablespoons garlic, slivered

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1/2 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined

1/2 pound bay scallop

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 cup chicken broth

1 teaspoon fresh lime juice

1/2 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley

Salt and pepper

Directions:

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and saute just until it begins to brown. Remove the garlic and set aside.

Add the pepper flakes to the skillet and increase the heat to medium high. Add shrimp, scallops and paprika. Saute for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly until seafood just becomes opaque. Add the chicken broth and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the shrimp and scallops to a serving platter; set aside and keep warm.

Add the lime juice, parsley, and salt and pepper to taste to the pan, and just heat through.

Pour the sauce over the shrimp and scallops, and serve immediately.

Shrimp Sauce Piquante

Recipe from Doug Stelly, owner of Who Dat’s Restaurant

Ingredients:

4 onions, chopped

3 bell peppers, finely chopped

1 1/2 cup green onion tops, chopped

1 1/2 cup parsley, chopped

1 cup oil

1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste

1 (10-ounce) can tomatoes with chiles (Rotel brand preferred)

Pinch of sugar

1 cup water

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Directions:

Saute onion, bell pepper, half of the green onion tops and half of the parsley in oil until onions are transparent. Add tomato paste, tomatoes with chilis, sugar and water. Cook on low heat for 2 hours.

Add shrimp, remaining green-onion tops, parsley, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes. Serve over cooked rice in soup bowls.

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