That quote is from Barry Estabrook’s story about shrimp in the March issue of Gourmet, and I’ve been thinking about it.
Although, thinking is not my excuse for taking a week off from this blog; no, that was due to my sudden inclination to repaint my kitchen walls (Silver Sage by Restoration Hardware, if you’re curious), which required me to unplug my computer and then led to all sorts of reorganizing and vacuuming of certain spaces that haven’t been touched by high-quality Miele suction since we moved in.
I don’t know why the idea that fish possess the bloodthirsty predatory nature of creatures like tigers, wolves and Giant Water Bugs is so interesting to me. Maybe it’s that fish are also one of the few truly wild foods that we eat in quantity.
Really, not including fresh game, the list of wild foods eaten on an average day in our culture is pretty short: Honey (which almost doesn’t count because it’s cultivated by beekeepers) Nuts – like these wild Missouri pecans. Real wild rice. Morels, ramps and fiddlehead ferns. And if you really swing with Euell Gibbons, dandelions from the back yard.
I was glad to read Estabrook’s piece, because he addresses a nit-picky problem I’ve had lately with shrimp, which is that they have a tendency to taste like scum from a big muddy pond. That’s because, he says, the millions of pounds of shrimp we eat each year are farm-raised in large “murky” pools somewhere in Asia or Ecuador. And, those shrimp have probably been frozen and refrozen multiple times by the time we grab a bag in the grocery store, which is why every once in a while you’ll get a shrimp with the texture of a cotton ball.
What we really want to be eating is fresh, wild American shrimp. I tracked some down at a gem of a local seafood shop, Bob’s. I hadn’t been there in a long while and apparently I’ve been missing out on some fine, fat Gulf shrimp beauties. Although I’m sure they’d seen some freezer time, they smelled sweet and fresh. I poached them in olive oil in this Mark Bittman-inspired recipe:
Makes about 4 servings
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil (use the good stuff for this)
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 pounds Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup oven dried tomatoes, sliced
1 can chickpeas, drained
A few handfuls baby arugula or spinach
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
Combine the oil and garlic in a 10-inch skillet. Turn the heat to medium and cook until garlic begins to sizzle. Add the cumin and paprika and stir. Turn the heat up and add the shrimp, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.
Cook until the shrimp turn pink. Stir in the tomatoes, chickpeas, arugula or spinach, and top with feta.
Serve over couscous.