Shrimp That’s Not Skimpy
December 31, 2011
A few years ago, some chef friends and I started a tradition of cooking for each other on New Year's Day. It was supposed to be all about kicking back after the weeks of long hours that go into pulling off special holiday menus for guests and family. What we needed was a pot luck. And maybe a beer or two.
But of course we all ended up trying to show off. The trick at this kind of gathering is to do something spectacular but make it seem totally offhand. I'm still thinking about the pickled green beans Eric Jansen put on the table last year. (If you're a serious eater I'm sure you know Eric's cooking well; if you don't, get yourself to Blackfish in Truro as soon as they open up again this spring.) I've still got today to keep last year's New Year's resolution to get that recipe from him.
I'm thinking about trying to get a rise out of people with something equally old-fashioned: shrimp cocktail. It's a classic crowd pleaser, and with this group, that's code for boring. But if I do it right, I know they'll end up eating every last shrimp.
My brother Alex would say it's because we've got our hands on a superior species of shrimp, the Mexican brown (Farfantepenaeus californiensis) found wild on Mexico's Pacific coast.
In the case of shrimp, wild is definitely better than farmed. Intensive farming, done mostly in India, Thailand, and Ecuador, is threatening the mangroves that protect whole coastal communities. And it's rare to find farmed shrimp that is not treated with antibiotics and other chemicals. Yet I've read that well over 80% of the shrimp consumed in the U.S. is farmed.
Alex discovered these Pacific shrimp several years ago when he went with friends for a mid-winter week at the beach. He is not the kind to be deterred by a few tequila sunrises. As far as I can tell, he spent most of his time on those trips sussing out tacos and stuffed peppers and shrimp.
Local shrimping families used to set up their coolers on the port and sell out daily, but Alex says that now they've joined together in a co-op and share a nice market facility. They've also beat the big industrial trawlers at meeting conservation regulations by using gear that doesn't ensnare turtles.
The Mexican brown shrimp are undeniably excellent. But the way we handle and cook them also makes a huge difference in texture and flavor. The shrimp arrive in a block of ice––a rare exception to our focus on fresh seafood that has never been frozen, but there's really no other way to get it here in excellent condition. We thaw them gently, then, even though they're already deveined, we extend that cut along the back so they butterfly nicely when cooked.
Then we boil them in well-salted water (about two tablespoons of salt per quart of water will approximate the salinity of seawater) for not much more than a minute. You can blame all that rubbery shrimp cocktail out there on overcooking. As soon as we drain the shrimp, we plunge them into ice water. But here's the real secret: this water is also salted. The shrimp retain their true seafood flavor because their natural salt content is not ever replaced by fresh water.
Now to the cocktail sauce. I'm not going to cheat and make something exotic. I'm going to start with plain old ketchup and tabasco like everybody else. I actually like that familiar tart-sweet-hot combination with shrimp. But I'm not going to rummage around my fridge for the horseradish I opened in June. I'm going to go all out on a brand new jar, so it'll be bright and pungent. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and I'll have Eric asking for my recipe.
- August 03, 2020
Mac’s Cocktails To Go
- July 31, 2020
Mac’s Shack Update
- July 29, 2020
A Health & Safety Update from Mac
- July 22, 2020
Mac’s Lobster Clambake TO GO
- June 29, 2020
Mac’s fried seafood is now GLUTEN FREE!
- May 27, 2020
More Mac’s Meals
- May 19, 2020
Sushi at Mac’s On the Pier & Mac’s Chatham Fish & Lobster
- April 08, 2020
Introducing Mac’s Meals
- March 26, 2020
MAC’S SEAFOOD MARKETS OFFER LOCAL HOME DELIVERY FROM HARWICH TO PTOWN
- March 17, 2020
Mac’s Seafood is Open for Take Out
- November 25, 2019
Feast of the Seven Fishes Holiday Wine Dinner
- November 12, 2019
All You Can Eats Fish ‘N Chips
- September 30, 2019
Oct 30 Wine Dinner - NOPI
- August 28, 2019
Mac’s Lobster Clambake TO GO for your Labor Day Celebration
- August 08, 2019
The New York Times Loves Mac’s Shack!
- April 12, 2019
The Shack is Back!
- March 08, 2019
A Taste of South Africa Wine Dinner March 13
- February 14, 2019
A Taste of Italy Wine Dinner Feb 27
- January 28, 2019
A Taste of Mexico Wine Dinner Feb 6
- January 10, 2019
A Taste of France Wine Dinner Jan 16
- December 18, 2018
New Year’s Eve at Mac’s
- August 22, 2018
Book your next event at Mac’s Fish House in Provincetown
- May 29, 2018
Wellfleet Restaurant Week at Mac’s Shack
- January 10, 2018
Mac’s Winter to Spring Wine Dinners
- January 03, 2017
Mac’s Fish House Provincetown Winter to Spring Dinner Series
- September 19, 2016
New Year’s Eve Dinner & Live Music at Mac’s Fish House Provincetown
- June 28, 2016
Story of a Fishing Family
- January 04, 2016
All You Can Eat Fish & Chips $15 Every Thurs at Mac’s
- December 16, 2015
New Year’s Eve Menu + Other Holiday Happenings at Mac’s
- November 06, 2015
Get Your Thanksgiving To Go at Mac’s
- October 23, 2015
Support our local Fishermen at the Dish On Fish Benefit - Mac’s Ptown - Nov 4
- October 19, 2015
Devil’s Purse Beer Dinner Oct 21 at Mac’s Ptown - RESERVE TODAY!
- September 29, 2015
Wine & Swine Dinner Oct 7 in Ptown - Reserve today!
- September 23, 2015
Fall Dinner Series at Mac’s Fish House Provincetown - RESERVE TODAY!
- July 17, 2015
Introducing our Small Batch Label - a new way to try a little taste of Mac’s
- June 25, 2015
Happy 4th! Free Shipping on Online Orders Over $100
- March 27, 2015
- February 05, 2015
Sweet Specials for Valentine’s Day
- December 19, 2014
Mac’s Provincetown New Year’s Eve Tasting Menu
- November 22, 2014
Smokin’ Good Oyster Sausage Stuffing