I attended the New World Food and Wine Festival in San Antonio this past weekend, and was able to see first-hand what some of the best local chefs had to offer. As you might expect, there was a slew of tasty Texas beef dishes that had more than a dash of regional Mexican influence. There’s a burgeoning wine scene, so many dishes were paired with local Texan wines too. But what actually grabbed my attention more than once was the Texas white shrimp.
It’s hard (but not impossible) for me to find American wild or farm-raised shrimp here in the Northeast, but in San Antonio, chefs like Moses Cruz of Oro Restaurant and Bar, and John Brand of Pesca on the River have easy access to both sustainably farmed and wild caught white shrimp, which I found to have a sweet yet delicate flavor.
Russ Miget, environmental quality specialist for the Texas Sea Grant Program and the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, says boasts about the sustainability of Texas white shrimp are sound. Shrimp reach sexual maturity at six-months and spawn at least once, and more often twice a year, laying 250,000 to 300,000 eggs each. And while bottom trawling is used, the shrimp boats are fishing off a mud-bottom floor, and are not dragging heavy nets over coral reefs. Bycatch is about three pounds of non-shrimp to every pound of shrimp, but much of it, like crabs, can be used.
Brand especially is a fan of the local wild stuff. “Unlike a lot of farmed shrimp from overseas which can be frozen and refrozen many times, this shrimp is frozen only once, on the shrimp boat, with the heads still intact, and it’s a bit sweeter like the sea. The flavor is so good, you don’t have to fuss with it much,” he said.
We agree, and tapped the chefs for a couple of recipes for you, because we know what it’s like to scramble for that showy holiday appetizer. And if you're searching for a mail-order source, this list of Texas Shrimp suppliers has several that sell retail.
Recipes below the fold
Cold Poached Texas White Shrimp With Oven Dried Cranberries Kalamata Olives - by Executive Chef Moses Cruz
3 medium sized carrots peeled, sliced ¾-inch rounds
1 whole stalk celery cut into ¾-inch slices, washed
2 medium Texas yellow onions
1 bottle dry white wine
2 quarts cold water
3 ounces kosher salt
1 ounce coarse black pepper
In heavy pot bring all above ingredients to a boil for 10 minutes.
2 pounds large Texas White Shrimp peeled and deveined.
Add shrimp to boiling water (above), remove when it reaches a boil again, Let sit for 2 minutes Drain shrimp and chill in ice bath. Once cooled, remove and let air dry.
2 wheels of herbed Boursin cheese
2 ounces dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, finely chopped
Soften cheese add cranberries and olives. Mix well and let rest for one hour. Form into 1-inch balls. Split cooled shrimp and arrange on platter, tail up. Place cheese mixture in middle and serve. (Clare notes: the shrimp sitting on the plate fanned out tail up, and then the cheese is in a ball, stuffed on the back of the shrimp, under the tail, so you lift the shrimp and pop the whole thing in your mouth, minus the tail. It was surprisingly good.)
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Grilled Texas White Shrimp with Saffron Garlic Chimichurri, Grilled Bread and Serrano Ham - by Executive Chef John Brand
2 teaspoons saffron threads
8 cloves garlic
1 bunch parsley
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons sherry vinegar
Juice and zest of one lemon
Salt and pepper
One dozen large White Texas Shrimp, peeled and deveined
¼ pound shaved Serrano ham
Blend chimichurri ingredients in a food processor. Toss with shrimp. Thread shrimp onto wood or sugar cane skewer and grill both sides. Remove shrimp from the grill and toss in Aioli sauce (below). Arrange on a platter with grilled baguette, shaved Serrano ham and garnish with frisee or arugula.
Garlic Lemon Aioli
6 egg yolks
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons garlic oil
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cup light olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons freshly chopped chives
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
In a large bowl whisk together yolks, Dijon, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar.
Slowly add the oils to form an emulsion. Add chives and parsley, season with salt and white pepper. Refrigerate.