A Tale of Two Tails

15 03 2010

Poached Shrimp and Scallops with Bruschetta

I always like to verify, when possible, the operating hypothesis with data. The best data of course is a randomized, placebo controlled, double blind study. A head to head showdown is another good method. As I have been preaching the virtues of freshness, particularly with the fresh shrimp of late, I decided to put my beliefs to the test. Having some very nice, but previously frozen shrimp, I thought we would blind taste test them against some fresh from the sea never frozen shrimp. For that, we needed a method and dish that subtly flavored and highlighted the natural mild sweetness of these little crustaceans. So we took the heads off some of the fresh (so the tasters could not tell) and lightly poached the shrimp. We served the shrimp simply with some baguette topped with pesto, fresh tomato and melted fresh mozzarella. That was it. Could the tasters tell fresh from frozen? Yes! 100% Yes. Both the texture (fresh was firm and frozen had a slight mushiness) and taste were easily separable. The fresh were sweet but the previously frozen were bland; not too bad but distinctly lacking in flavor compared to the real deal. Had we used the shrimp as a secondary flavor component in another dish, or as part of a dish with very strong flavor profiles (thus overwhelming the mild natural flavors) I am not sure you would have been able to tell them apart. The point here is when you have a fresh product like this; look for recipes and preparation methods that highlight the advantage of what are sometimes delicate and subtle tastes. Another example being the fresh tomato (vine ripened from roadside farm stand) on the baguette, its sweetness complemented the shrimp and was distinct from mega store tomatoes which lack those natural sugars and flavors. We also poached some sea scallops as well.

Poached Shrimp

  • 1/3 cup of Mead (or white wine with 1 Tbs honey)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tbs Herb de Provence (see below)
  • ½ tsp lime zest
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tbs red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbs paprika
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp cayenne
  • 2 cups fish, shellfish or light chicken stock
  • 1 cup water
  • Fresh Shrimp, heads on if possible

Bring all the components to a simmer in a medium saucepan (about 180 degrees F). Add the shrimp and poach 3-5 minutes until the shrimp turn pink, indicating they are done. Remove and serve. If not serving immediately, drop into an ice bath to stop the cooking process and serve later as a chilled shrimp dish.

Herb de Provence

The ratio for the dried herb combination is:

  • 3 parts Marjoram
  • 3 parts Thyme
  • 3 parts Savory
  • 1 part Basil
  • 1 part Rosemary
  • ½ part Sage
  • ½ part Fennel Seed



3 responses

16 03 2010

a head to head show down or a tail to tail show down?

16 03 2010

A little of both 😉

16 03 2010

head to head or tail to tail

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