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- Servings: 4
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BackstoryJumbo Shrimp, Military Intelligence, Pretty Ugly, Deafening Silence.
We are all familiar with these oxymora or oxymoron(s), from the Greek ‘oxy or oxus’ (sharp) and ‘moros’ (dull or foolish), ergo (Latin, not Greek) meaning “sharply blunt” or “pointedly foolish”, it’s a vicious cycle.
In the case of shrimp in particular, the above oxymoronic term is only the beginning of the confusion. We also have the term Prawn, used by the “shrimping” industry interchangeably with, well, shrimp, especially if the particular crustacean in question is of a larger size. (What is with the preoccupation with size? Sheesh!)
It’s true that all shrimp and prawns are Arthropods, and all shrimp and prawns are Crustaceans. They are even both Decopods (10 legs), however shrimp are not prawns and prawns are not shrimp. Decopoda is where the similarities end for they are divided into 2 different sub-orders due to their gill design. Prawns are in Dendrobranchiata (Branch Gilled) where as shrimp are in Pleocyemata along with Crabs, Lobsters and Crayfish (which is really a fresh water lobster). True shrimp are then further classified into the infra-order of Caridea.
Biology lesson aside.
A perfect example of the puzzlement created by the “prawning” industry (take that!) is the Black Tiger Shrimp (Penaeus Monodon) and the much larger Tiger Prawn (also Penaeus Monodon) both of which are delicious on a bed of spinach and smothered in cilantro-lime butter and a feast for the eyes hanging off the rim of a cocktail sauce filled martini glass. Thus proving that prawns are just as tasty as shrimp, for the Black Tiger “shrimp” is actually the largest species of Prawn (not a shrimp) in the world, capable of reaching 14 inches (36 cm) when not harvest while still shrimpy, or is that wimpy? Talk about colossal!
Incidently, as if all this prawn/shrimp nonsense wasn’t enough we have the even more bewildering Shrimp Scampi of American-Italian restaurant fame.
Scampi is the plural of Scampo, being Italian for the small (9 inch) Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegics). Also known in French as the langoustine (Does this sound familiar?) and even more perplexing, as the Dublin Bay Prawn.
It is official, not only does “Prawn” mean large, jumbo or colossal shrimp as well as, well, Prawn (unless said prawn is small, at which point it must be referred to as shrimp), but also small (aka: shrimpy) lobster.
In the U.S., restaurateurs (no ‘n’) use scampi to denote “shrimp”, or in some cases small prawns, but very rarely do they mean actual Scampi. This makes their menu look more authentically “Italian”, I guess. Gamberetto, Granchiolino, and Gambero, which are perfectly serviceable Italian words meaning “shrimp” or “prawn”, must all look and sound too Spanish.
To further obscure the term, Scampi is also used as a proper name for the popular dish of shrimp, or prawns, in garlic butter and white wine which was called Langostino in the 70s and early 80s and served in just about every steak house in the country. I have my suspicions, however, that disco era “Langostino” was made with crayfish (aka: Mississippi River Prawn).
This makes “scampi” appear to be a specific preparation resulting in such dishes as “Shrimp Scampi” which while not an oxymoron, is “moros”ly redundant like PIN number (Personal Identification Number Number) and ATM Machine (Automated Teller Machine Machine) and my personal favorite WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant). I will admit that I have seen a few red Caucasians, but I suspect they were merely sunburned.
This is a traditional dish of Lancashire and made with the 1 ¼ -2 inch long cold water brown shrimp crangon crangon (Yes, it’s a shrimp) from the local waters.
If your crustaceans happen to be a “little large” (oxymoron intended), simply cut them down to size with a knife.
Alternately, if you do not wish to pot your shrimp/prawns/lobster, you may drain them and stuff them in crepes, then drizzle with the melted ghee.
- 8 oz Unsalted Butter
- 1/2 tsp Lemon Zest
- 1 tsp Ground mace
- 1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper
- fresh grated nutmeg
- 1 lb raw “small” shrimp, peeled and de-veined (Pretend that “small” and “shrimp” isn’t redundant)
- Salt and White Pepper
- In a small saucepan, melt the butter over low flame skimming the scum as necessary;
- When the milk proteins begin to brown slightly and a nutty aroma can be detected, remove from heat.
- Carefully pour off the liquid butter, leaving the solids in the pan.
- Congratulations! You just made Ghee which is much more flavorful than simple clarified butter.
- Melt 4 oz of ghee together with the lemon zest and spices in a small sauce pan over low flame;
- When the ghee hits about 180 – 200 degrees, add shrimp and let them poach in the hot ghee for about 10 minutes depending on how long it takes your ghee to recover in temperature (Don’t let the ghee get too hot or the shrimp will be fried/deep fried).
- Taste for salt at this point. They may be salty enough. If not, add salt and white pepper to taste.
- Pour the shrimps and the ghee into little pots or 4-5 oz ramekins, press them down a little with a spatula to make a smooth’ish’ surface and let them cool and harden slightly at room temperature.
- Melt the remaining ghee and pour just enough over the surface to seal it up when the butter hardens.
- Place in the refrigerator to chill for at least 4 hours.
- Remove from refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving or the ghee will be too hard and have fewer flavors.
- Serve with warm sourdough toast triangles.