Key West 'Pinks' in a Bag
In this week's Food section, Walter Nicholls profiles a shrimp farm in Hurlock, Md. that is using state-of-the-art, sustainable indoor aquaculture.
I was unable to join the Food staff for its blind taste test of frozen shrimp available at Washington supermarket fish counters. The objective: To see how they stacked up against the fresh indoor-farmed shrimp from Marvesta Shrimp Farms, which I hope to taste sooner rather than later, based on the results.
Among the frozen shrimp contestants, I noticed the absence of "Wild Key West Pink Shrimp" from Whole Catch, a private label of Whole Foods Market. Sold in the frozen section rather than at the seafood counter, the Whole Catch one-pound bag contains 16-20 wild-caught shrimp, which means large, three inches of crustacean.
I was immediately drawn to three words on the package -- Key, West and pink - which took me straight to a fish shack on Stock Island in the Keys, where I slurped on the most luscious basket of steamed Key West "pinks" earlier this year. They were flamingo pink and rich in texture as well as flavor, similar to lobster.
As I stood with the freezer door open, I wondered if I could have a similar taste adventure to the one I had with my brother in January. The results: Not exactly -- but quite respectable. The frozen guys lack a certain sheen and perkiness that only comes with freshly caught shrimp, but they maintain their rich, meaty texture, even after thawing. The caveat: At $15.99 per pound, this is not a shrimp for budget-minded seafarers.
I found a fellow fan of Whole Catch "pinks" in Food section editor Joe Yonan, who also admires its rich flavor, but he e-mailed this week to report that his most recently purchased bag was freezer burned. Alas, buyer beware.
After thawing, peeling, draining and thoroughly drying the shrimp, I seasoned with salt, dipped in egg whites, then rolled in unsweetened coconut. In the meantime, I took two very ripe mangoes crying to be used, and pureed them. To my colorful puree, I added the squeeze of one half of a lime, some grated horseradish (you could use prepared just as easily) and a smidge of salt. Wow! The sauce was gorgeous and popped in the mouth, working as a great foil to the fat in the shrimps.
In a hot skillet, I heated a few tablespoons of vegetable oil, the seared the shrimp quickly so that the coconut wouldn't burn. They need about 2 minutes on each side before you can start dipping into the mango puree.
Obviously, this is just one of the zillion methods of cooking shrimp; share your favorite style of preparation - or maybe you know of yet another supermarket variety that you'd like to share with the class. The ocean floor is all yours...
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