Seasonal eats are most enjoyable

Published 11:24 am Monday, June 17, 2019

It’s Friday

By Peggy Walker, R.D

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Perish the thought!  I’m all about seasonal things…décor, color, dress, and most of all food…but all in due season!  But, I’m sorry to note that just this past week I spied pumpkins (of the artificial kind) among rows of fall and Thanksgiving décor.

I had to look the other way and make a frowny face, then refocus on what I went in the store for. I’m not even ready to think about fall.  Why DW and I are still getting ready for summer. He’s about to complete a shed where we will hang our fine old swing. I’ve already bought the new cushion to make it more comfy. I’ve been painting patio furniture, spray can by spray can; and I never stop planting flowers for summer until the pansies come out.

For sure, it is absolutely not pumpkin season, what it is is the peak of shrimp season. And that makes my mouth water. I’ve been scouting out seafood vendors in and around Jackson and taking recommendations from the locals.  A trip to the beach is never complete without a cooler full of freshly harvested gulf shrimp to bring home, but if DW and I don’t get to the Coast we won’t have to do without. Now I know where to find it up here.

Here’s a little primer on the color of Mississippi gulf shrimp that helps when shopping for fresh shrimp whether on the docks, on the roadside, or at the seafood market. You know shrimp turns pink when it’s done, but there are many colors of raw shrimp. Which to purchase depends on the variety you like the best or what you want to use it for. But they are mostly interchangeable and fine for ever how you want to prepare them:  bake, blacken, boil, deep fry, grill, poach, sauté, sear, or steam.

Brown gulf brown shrimp are available year-round in the warm gulf waters. These shellfish can actually change their color to blend in with their environment. Grooves on the back side of their shells identify them as brown shrimp. These shrimp have a rather salty flavor and are not as large as white shrimp.

Pink gulf shrimp have a nicely mild sweet flavor and are an excellent choice for boiling. My absolute favorite way to eat shrimp is boiled in a spicy shrimp boil with lemons, new potatoes, little ears of corn, and hunks of smoked sausage, then shrimp all cooked in the same pot. Then drained and sprinkled with a little Creole seasoning. Ummm, with a bowl of homemade cocktail sauce, crackers and/or French bread I’m good for a very long time, just peeling and eating.

White shrimp is large with longer antennae than the others. It’s usually more tender and tastes milder and sweeter. It’s very easy to peel and a great choice for grilling.

Be safe!  Shrimp is extremely perishable, regardless of what color it is. Wherever you’re bringing your shrimp home from…the beach, the market, or the side of the road… it needs to be iced down in a cooler.

When you get it home, refrigerate it ASAP to use within 2 -3 days at the very latest. Or, to save for later, twist off the heads, rinse well, and pack in sturdy freezer bags. Push out all the air from the bags and fill with icy cold water. Seal and date, then freeze for up to 12 months. Thaw overnight, only in the refrigerator, never in the sink or on the counter, and use within three days.

It’s summer, I’ll be out back, just a’swinging, peeling and eating shrimp, and enjoying the season…without pumpkins.

Recipe of the Week

Coconut Shrimp

If you must fry it….

16 ounces Mississippi Gulf shrimp

1 egg

¾ cup all-purpose, flour, divided

⅔ cup beer

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

2 cups flaked coconut

3 cups vegetable oil for frying

In medium bowl, combine egg, ½ cup flour, beer and baking powder.  Place remaining flour in a small bowl, and coconut in another small bowl. Hold shrimp by tail and dredge in flour, next in egg/beer batter, then in coconut. Place on a baking sheet lined with wax paper and repeat with remaining shrimp.  Refrigerate battered shrimp for 30 minutes. Heat oil in a deep fryer or skillet. Fry shrimp in batches, turning once if in a skillet, until golden brown. Using tongs, remove to paper towels to drain. Serve warm with your favorite sauce.