Local Hawaii ingredients used with an international flair
Sunday, June 12, 2011
Honoring the ingredients: fresh Kona Kea shrimp
by Nanette Geller
I was already at the KCC Farmers Market yesterday when the tweet came in from @hnlfarmers: “Big Island Abalone debuting fresh Kona Kea Pacific White Shrimp. Never frozen, fresh by the bag.”
If you’ve only eaten frozen shrimp, you can’t imagine how much better fresh shrimp can be. But they have to be very fresh, and properly handled. Shrimp spoil so quickly that they are almost always frozen, which is much better than fresh shrimp which have begun to deteriorate. Even when you buy them at a fish counter, they’re usually previously frozen and defrosted. I used to find Kauai shrimp, which were farmed in an ecologically sound way, but they shut down. I’d heard that shrimp were being farmed near Kona, but this is the first time I’ve seen them at the market.
These were big, ten per pound. They looked wonderful and (even more important) smelled fresh. They were also expensive, $15 for a one-pound bag. I hesitated, but fortunately greed won out.
With frozen shrimp, my strategy is to compensate for the loss of flavor and texture. But for these beauties I wanted to keep it simple, adding just a few ingredients to bring out the crustacean’s inherent sweetness.
I decided to go back to my favorite way of cooking the Kauai shrimp, a slight variation on a recipe I’d seen Mario Batali make on TV. Batali sautéed the shrimp in olive oil with garlic and chilies, then added white wine and finished with mint. My Free Range Gourmet touch is to add lots of julienned fresh ginger along with the garlic and chilies. Ginger goes so well with Mediterranean flavors, I’m convinced that if fresh ginger had been readily available it would be used as freely as it is in Asia.
When I cook shrimp this way, I usually just serve them in a shallow bowl, with bread to sop up the juices. Last night I decided to serve them with spaghetti.
Even though they are large, these shrimp were so clean that I didn’t have to devein them. All I did was clip off the two long whiskers, rinse, and pat dry. I like to cook shrimp with the shell. It contributes to the flavor and helps protect the shrimp from overcooking. Plus, it’s more fun to eat. The heads also contribute lots of flavor.
I sautéed garlic, ginger, and chilies with a big pinch of salt in olive oil . When the aromatics were soft (and starting to smell wonderful!) I added the shrimp and tossed them around to pick up the flavors. Then I added about 1/4 bottle of dry white wine, cooked just until the shrimp were completely red, and removed the shrimp to a plate, allowing the juices to continue boiling to concentrate the flavors. Meanwhile, I was also boiling 1/4 pound of spaghetti.
When the spaghetti was about a minute short of al dente I drained it and added it to the cooking juices to finish cooking to the al dente stage. Most of the liquid was soaked up by the pasta. I turned off the heat and finished the spaghetti with a little more olive oil and a handful of mint cut in chiffonade. After plating the spaghetti and shrimp I added more mint. I cooked all the shrimp, but only used six for the two of us. The remaining shrimp will make another meal, served cold or just warmed through.
The shrimp tasted like shrimp, with just a subtle enhancement from the aromatics and wine. Meanwhile, the spaghetti picked up lots of flavor from the shrimp. My big splurge paid off. We feasted like kings, for about the cost of a plate lunch.
yum! can't wait to get my hands on some of those!! I had some beautiful small Ama Ebi from Tamashiro's caught near Haleiwa.. they needed no cooking at all.. sweet and fresh.. and super cheap (2.90/lb because they were the small size that the sushi chefs don't want..
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