Confucius once said: “Eat more shrimp. It will make you healthy, wise and well nourished.” Centuries later, shrimp is still regarded as a universally favorite seafood and a delicacy for which we can thank our Chinese cousins.
Shrimp has been an important food throughout the Orient for centuries and was brought to California by Chinese immigrants in the mid 1800s. They also brought their skills in the use of traps, small tide nets and seines to harvest them.
There are historical accounts that maintain there was a shrimp industry in Louisiana in the 17th century. The rich fishing and trapping territories south of New Orleans were settled by the French-speaking Creoles and Acadians (now called Cajuns). These early settlers took to the waters of the Gulf of Mexico in small sailing vessels in search of the miniscule crustacean. These early shrimpers used seine nets as large as 2,000 feet in circumference. Because of the lack of refrigeration, most of the highly perishable shrimp catch was then sun-dried and taken to market in New Orleans.
There are 35 species of shrimp and they are sought by fishermen throughout the world, many in depths up to 2,600 feet. In the Picardy district of France, they are called chevrette (a kid), which refers to the bounding movements of the shrimp as they swim through the water. Shrimp also are called prawns, and there also is a species called rock shrimp, which is gaining in popularity.
Shrimp, which do contain a fair amount of cholesterol, fell into ill repute with nutritionists during the 1990s. However, further study revealed they can be part of a heart-healthy diet.
Shrimp have 152 milligrams of cholesterol per 3.5 ounce serving. They are, however, very low in saturated fat (only 0.3 grams per serving) and it is saturated fat, more than dietary cholesterol that raises blood cholesterol. Furthermore, they contain omega-3, the fatty acids in fish oil that are good for the heart. Shrimp are very nutritious and contain only 35 calories per ounce. They have considerable amounts of lean protein, vitamins A, B and D and are rich in minerals.
This classic dish was the specialty of the De Jonghe family’s hotel in Chicago (long gone) but their original recipe is still served in many of the nation’s finest restaurants.
SHRIMP DE JONGHE
Serves 4 to 6
3 quarts water
1 small yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 celery tops
1 whole bay leaf
1¼ teaspoons salt or to taste
2 pounds medium raw shrimp in the shell
½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1½ cups fine white bread crumbs
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
½ teaspoon paprika
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or a splash or two of hot sauce
1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2 Butter a 6-cup shallow casserole and set aside.
3 Bring water, onion, celery tops, peppercorns, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling in a large heavy kettle over moderate heat.
4 Add shrimp, cover and return just to boiling.
5 Drain shrimp at once, cool slightly, shell and devein.
6 Place shrimp in a large bowl, add ¼ cup melted butter and sherry; toss well and set aside.
7 In a separate bowl, toss breadcrumbs with remaining ¼ cup butter, parsley, remaining ¼ teaspoon salt, garlic, paprika and cayenne.
8 Arrange half the shrimp in casserole and top with half the crumb mixture.
9 Add remaining shrimp, then remaining crumb mixture.
10 Bake uncovered, until browned and bubbly; about 35 to 40 minutes.
Doris Reynolds is the author of “Let’s Talk Food” and “When Peacocks Were Roasted and Mullet Was Fried.” They are available for sale in the lobby of the Naples Daily News. Also available is a four-part DVD, “A Walk Down Memory Lane with Doris Reynolds. Contact Doris Reynolds at firstname.lastname@example.org.