Tasty Texas Shellfish: Healthy Shrimp & Crab
by Cheryl Hill-Burrier
For those of you who don't know Larry and me, we're a mixed marriage couple; Larry is of the cooking persuasion, and I write. Together, we have two cookbooks and are currently working on a third.
Our home is in Lockhart, the BBQ Capital of Texas but, for a brief period of time, we lived on the Texas coast where our dock was located next to the Bear Brothers shrimp boat. What a stroke of luck! Shrimp was the commodity they used in exchange for our fresh water and electricity and, believe me, we quickly became the Bubba Gumps of shrimp!
We are not the only Gumps around though! Shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States, and Texas is one of the top producers. In fact, shrimp is so popular here that the Texas Department of Agriculture has devoted a website just to shrimp at http://www.txshrimp.org. And you thought Texas was all about beef.
But, wait. Maybe you're still hearing on the party line that shellfish (like shrimp and crab) are high in cholesterol. Well, here's an update from the Mayo Clinic:
(April, 2006): The commonly held view that shellfish are high in cholesterol was due to a chemical compound called sterol. Cholesterol is only one among the many sterols that naturally occur in plants and animals. Previous and less sophisticated testing had grouped all sterols under cholesterol. So, the cholesterol levels for shellfish generally looked high.
Now, I'm betting that the majority of you who are reading this article don't live along the Texas coast where you can get fresh seafood, so let's just buggy up some shrimp and crab from your local grocery store or internet resources.
Store-bought shrimp are available fresh-frozen, frozen, and canned. The fresh-frozen shrimp are found in the seafood or meat market area of your grocery store. If you want to be sure that you're buying Texas shrimp, just ask before buying. Select shrimp with a mild, clean smell and firm texture. Avoid those that have a strong, offensive odor, especially of ammonia. Also avoid shrimp with excessive black spots on the shell or meat.
After purchasing, store them in the refrigerator or freezer to ensure freshness and flavor. Uncooked shrimp can be kept in the refrigerator for up to three days, and the freezer for up to three months. To thaw, you can either defrost in the refrigerator overnight, or submerge the bag of shrimp into a container of cold water for approximately 15 minutes.
The Blue crab will yield two or three ounces of meat, while the Stone crab claw will yield about one ounce of meat. Both the Stone and Blue crab crabmeat (other than live) is cooked before it's packaged and can be used without further cooking. This cooking process is known as pasteurization and, if not canned, must be kept refrigerated. The meat will keep for up to one week in the refrigerator. Since it doesn't freeze well, the maximum time in the freezer should be three weeks.
Blue Crab is available in live form at the grocery store. But, be careful. These little critters will just as soon pinch your finger in half as look at you. To cook, drop them into a large pot of salted water that has come to a rolling boil for approximately 15 minutes and the shells have turned red. Drain off the water and rinse in cold water for a few seconds to stop the cooking process. Then serve whole, or pick the meat to be used in other recipes.
Stone Crab claws from the grocery store can be stored in a plastic bag and kept in the freezer for up to six months. To thaw, place in the refrigerator overnight. Do not thaw in cold water as with shrimp. You can serve the claws intact or use the picked meat in any recipe calling for crabmeat or lobster. Around two and one-half pounds of medium size stone crab claws will generally provide about one pound of picked crabmeat.
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