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.

Key West "pinks" that come from the frozen section. (Kim O'Donnel)

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...

By Kim ODonnel |  April 18, 2007; 12:52 AM ET Seafood
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Er, do shrimp actually have fat?

Posted by: C | April 18, 2007 8:05 AM

C, You're right; shrimp have less than one gram of fat in a four-ounce serving. But when I refer to the "fat in the shrimps," I'm referring to its richness, which is due to many things, including its high cholesterol content...and cholesterol is a lipid, which is a fatty molecule. Hope this clarifies.

Posted by: Kim O'Donnel | April 18, 2007 9:55 AM

Basic shrimp scampi, served on a bed of spinich greens.

Posted by: Mmmmmm | April 18, 2007 11:59 AM

I wanted to chime in--shrimp + coconut = heart killing food! That is a ton of cholestrol plus the harmful fat in coconut. Shrimp are on the do-not-eat list for my patients with these conditions. I am sure these are delish, but for a person with cholestrol or heart issues, you might want to eat them instead with some healthy fat like olive oil, avocado, etc that would workto raise good cholestrol to somewhat counteract the cholestrol in the shrimp.

Posted by: MD in MD | April 18, 2007 3:24 PM

I love shrimp. One of the best ways I have found for cooking it, that results in beautiful, perfectly cooked shrimp I got from Ina Garten.

(for exact amounts and cooking temp/time see

Put olive oil in jelly-roll pan. place cleaned and de-veined shrimp on pan. add salt & pepper. Put in super hot oven for about 8 min (maybe less, can't remember exact time), turning halfway. Shrimp were moist, perfectly cooked and pretty (not pan shrivled).

Posted by: Shrimpet | April 18, 2007 3:37 PM

Ah, shrimp! Shrimp salad sandwich on a croissant; steamed shrimp w/cocktail sauce; shrimp on a bed of linguini tossed with olive oil and chopped parsley; shrimp fried rice (but don't dare over-fry the shrimp); shrimp newburg; and crabmeat-stuffed shrimp. And have you ever tried eggs benedict with shrimp instead of ham? Just go a little light on the hollandaise sauce.

Posted by: Captain | April 18, 2007 8:08 PM

Hey Kim and everyone,

I know that shrimp are a very yummy food but seeing how this blog often focuses on local, natural, and organic foods, I thought it worth pointing out the harmful environmental effects of the shrimp industry. Catching shrimp in the wild results in high numbers of bycatch (fish, sea turtles, marine mammals that get caught in the nets, die and are wastefully thrown back into the sea). Only 10% of each catch by a shrimp trawl is actually shrimp, the other 90% is bycatch. Farming shimp is not any better as shrimp farms on the coastlines across the developing world are destroying mangrove forests at an alarming pace. Mangroves offer important services as fish nurseries and storm/wave breaks. I am not a vegetarian or even close but I try to eat food that is less harmful for the environment. I strongly encourage all the shrimp eaters out there to buy sustainably farmed shrimp like the Marvesta shrimp Kim mentioned. There is also a good shrimp farm in Orlando, called OceanBoy that is certified organic.

Posted by: CH from Florida | April 19, 2007 9:35 AM

Kim stop hyping Whole Foods. Please the shill is getting old. How much is WF paying you to shill for them. Wegman's often has Key West pinks and fresh not frozen large gulf shrimp. Their fresh Shrimp is the best I have had since buying fresh right off the boat in NC. The Organic Butcher in Mclean often carries fresh not frozen shrimp too.

Posted by: vaherder | April 20, 2007 8:58 AM

random fact: flamingos get their color from eating shrimp and other crustaceans...

Posted by: flamingo | April 20, 2007 5:50 PM

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