Talking Shrimp with Chef Chris Hastings
Think all shrimp are simply shrimp? That idea doesn't swim well with Alabama Gulf Seafood and James Beard Award winning chef, Chris Hastings, who want you to know just how different varieties of shrimp can be. We sat down with Hastings to get the scoop on this popular Cooking Light dinnertime star.
"Each [variety of shrimp] has its own characteristics and flavor profile," says Hastings, owner and executive chef at Hot and Hot Fish Club in Birmingham, AL. Shrimp can be broken down into four main varieties: Brown, White, Pink and Royal Reds. From the grill to gumbo, there's a variety perfect for your menu plan.
Brown Shrimp: In season more towards the summertime, brown shrimp have a stronger taste that holds up well against spicier, richer dishes like gumbo and jambalaya.
White Shrimp: These milder and sweeter shrimp surface in the early spring to late fall. These shrimp tend to infuse themselves with the flavors they are cooked in, so try more delicate sauces and sautés.
Pink Shrimp: These sweet, tender shrimp tend to be the largest of all the varieties. Available from late fall to early spring, these shrimp complement delicate sauces well and are great for the grill.
Royal Red Shrimp: As any coveted seafood, these shrimp only pop up from time to time. These true royals boast a rich, lobster-like quality that reminds the palate of blue crab. It's a true treat to find these in the market!
Are you far from the ocean? No worries when it comes to frozen. "It's all about domestic, wild-caught shrimp," Hastings says. He recommends building a relationship with your fishmonger to truly understand where your seafood is coming from. Chemicals used to pack shrimp can be the worst thing for flavor and delicacy; avoiding treated seafood is extremely important when you are looking for the best product.
So if the next stroll around your local grocery finds you in front of the seafood section, take a minute to inquire about the variety and source of your shrimp. With wild-caught options becoming more and more standard, we can all enjoy the quality and nuances of different shrimp varieties.
"They are the ideal choice for a family because they are widely accessible, very fast cooking and such great value per person. From the home to a restaurant, shrimp are an ideal pick," Hastings says.