By James P. DeWan, Special to Tribune Newspapers
September 26, 2012
Shrimp stock is one of those just-odd-enough ingredients that can sometimes cause your less kitchen-obsessed friends and loved ones to exclaim, upon hearing that you're making your own, "Are you insane?"
To which I suggest you reply, "Yeah. So? What's it to ya?"
That'll show 'em.
In the meantime, let's make some shrimp stock.
Why you need to learn this
Shrimp bisque. Bouillabaisse. Shrimp curry (Thai or Indian). Cioppino. Pretty much anything out of New Orleans, like gumbo (see recipe below), jambalaya or etouffee. All of these luscious dishes will benefit from a good, homemade shrimp stock.
Even more important, though, is that we're reinforcing the notion of frugality, of making use of every part of everything we consume, of wasting nothing — or as close to nothing as we can. This falls under the category of Ways To Be Good Stewards of the Earth.
What's more, after you start saving your shrimp shells with an eye to wonderful future concoctions, you'll start thinking to yourself, "What else can I do this with?" And the answer will come to you: chicken bones, backs and wingtips, fish bones and heads, beef bones ...
By buying whole chicken or fish, or larger, bone-in cuts of meat, then breaking it down yourself and freezing the bones for later use, not only will you be paying a cheaper price per pound for the meat, you also will be making full use of the entire animal.
The steps you take
As you may recall, stock is simply a flavorful liquid made by simmering the bones (or shells) of animals in water along with some aromatic vegetables (typically onion, carrot and celery in a 2-to-1-to-1 ratio, called "mirepoix") and some parsley, bay leaf, thyme and black peppercorns. Though meat stocks take hours to develop flavor, fish and shellfish stocks typically are simmered for no more than 45 minutes or so.
One question you may have: Why shrimp stock? It's simple: Most of us love shrimp, but most people don't realize that the shells have tons of flavor. Thus, most people, sadly, just throw those shells away. Not only are they wasting valuable product (and therefore money), they're also depriving themselves of the opportunity to make something really great.
Now, because a pound of shells will produce about a pint of stock, you're not going to have enough shells for stock every time you cook a little shrimp. The idea, then, is that, whenever you peel some shrimp, stuff all the shells in a plastic freezer bag and stick them in the freezer. Over time, you'll accumulate enough shells to make a good amount of delicious stock.
For this method, we'll use about 2 pounds of shrimp shells, which will then require about 6 ounces (by weight) of mirepoix. Figure half a cup of diced onion and a quarter cup each of carrot and celery. Top it off with 1 bay leaf, half a bunch of parsley, half a teaspoon of dried thyme and a few peppercorns.
Here's what you do:
1. Sweat your mirepoix in a heavy-bottomed stockpot (this means cooking the vegetables slowly in just a little oil, just long enough to get soft and throw off some liquid), then stir in your shrimp shells.
2. When the shells turn pink, after about 30 to 60 seconds, add 51/2 cups of cold water and your herbs and spices.
3. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 45 minutes.
4. When the stock is done, strain through a fine mesh strainer or sieve and cool. Stock will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, or, you can freeze it for up to six months. Use the stock for any of the above ideas, or come up with your own.
Shrimp and andouille gumbo
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 55 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
Ingredeints: 1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup flour
1 large onion, cut into medium dice
2 ribs celery, cut into medium dice
1 green pepper, cut into medium dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups shrimp stock (plus as needed)
1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/2-inch half circles
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon each: dried thyme, dried basil, white pepper, cayenne, black pepper
1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp
4 cups cooked white rice
1. Place a heavy-bottom stockpot over medium high heat. When hot, whisk in oil and flour to form a roux. Cook, whisking, until roux is medium to dark brown, 3-5 minutes.
2. Add onion, celery and green pepper; cook, stirring constantly, until slightly browned, 2-3 minutes.
3. Add garlic; cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
4. Whisk in shrimp stock; add andouille, salt, herbs and spices. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to a simmer. Cook at a simmer, 45 minutes.
5. Add shrimp; simmer until cooked, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately with rice.
Per serving (for 8 servings): 464 calories, 24 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 126 mg cholesterol, 35 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 1,573 mg sodium, 2 g fiber.
James P. DeWan is a culinary instructor at Kendall College and co-author of The Zwilling J.A. Henckels Complete Book of Knife Skills.