As you know, we love eating fish and shrimp in our house. Honestly I could eat shrimp every night. When I first began to watch and learn from my mother in the kitchen, I noticed that she always bought her shrimp with the shell and legs on. I asked her why and she said that it keeps the shrimp fresher for longer and most importantly it brings out the true flavor in the shrimp (shrimp bought without shells don’t have any taste). She also told me she liked to clean her own shrimp. Clean shrimp? Yup, for novice chefs out there it’s a good idea to clean aka de-vein your shrimp before you eat them since the “vein” of the shrimp is actually their digestive tract. If you leave it in it isn’t the end of the world, but there will be a sandy texture (since shrimp are bottom feeders and eat dirt/sand). Yup, gross.
For a family of 3 we buy a pound and a quarter/ pound and a half of shrimp for dinner. This equals about 5-6 large shrimp per person. We usually buy ours from the Farmers’ Market since it is the freshest there is (caught that morning). When we get home we decide what day of the week we are going to eat it and either freeze it or keep it in the fridge. Always keep the shell on until right before you are planning to make it. On the night we are going to eat the shrimp we take it out of the fridge, wash them with water and begin the cleaning process.
For cleaning shrimp, I would highly recommend buying Joyce Chen scissors, we use them for everything (in the garden, cutting herbs, and all sorts of other things in the kitchen).
The first step to cleaning your shrimp is to cut into the bottom of the shell with your scissors. I continue to snip until I can easily pull the shell off (about halfway down). Try to only cut the shell and not into your shrimp.
Peel off the shell except for the tail (it’s hard to take the shell of the tail off without taking off some of the shrimp and leaving the tail on is nice for decorative purposes).
Once you have your shell off, cut a small 1/4 inch slit along the back of the shrimp.
Reach in their and take out the black vein and throw it away. Make sure you get the whole thing (from top to bottom, sometimes it breaks off into two pieces). Be aware it’s a little slimy! Sometimes if you don’t see the vein in the top of the shrimp, you will need to cut along the bottom of the shrimp and see if it is there.
Repeat with the rest of your shrimp.
There will be instances where you want to cook your shrimp with the shell on, particularly when you grill it. Keeping the shell on shrimp intensifies the flavor and protects the delicate shrimp inside. There are also times when you don’t need the shell on, in this instance we were pan-searing (my recipe is here). It wasn’t necessary to keep the shell on since the flavor of the dish comes from the herb butter we used.
If you want to keep the shell on for cooking, use your Joyce Chens to cut a 1/4 inch slit along the outer edge of the back of the shrimp, cutting through the shell and into the shrimp to get to the vein. Reach in and pull out the vein. It’s the same method as above except you are keeping your shell in tact (I totally forgot to take a photo of this method, but hope you get my explanation).
PS -special shout out to my mom who demonstrated with the shrimp while I photographed away.