Growing up in Indiana in a family that didn’t fish, my exposure to seafood was mostly limited to a rare night out at Long John Silvers when I was a kid. It wasn’t until I met Dan and traveled to his hometown of Portland, Maine, that I began to really love seafood. But, living so far from the coast and having little cooking experience with seafood, I rarely ate it when back home in the Midwest.
I still don’t have much experience when it comes to cooking with seafood, but this summer I took the plunge (it’s okay, you can laugh at that terrible pun) and purchased my first pound of live saltwater shrimp–right here in DeMotte, Indiana.
Our first introduction to JT Shrimp involved a tour of their facility, where Dan , our brother-in-law Luke, Harper and Asher got to see firsthand how Wheatfield, Indiana residents Scott and Leslie Tysen raise saltwater shrimp. The Tysens use a zero exchange aerobic heterotrophic system to raise their shrimp; in other words, they use a system that makes the water as close as possible to the shrimp’s natural habitat, without the pollutants you would normally find in the ocean. The indoor system involves running water through several filters to remove unwanted bacteria, algae, and viruses from the water, allowing for the growth of large, healthy shrimp.
JT Shrimp’s Scott Tysen showing Harper, Asher, and Uncle Luke a shrimp at their Wheatfield facility Photo: Dan Perkins
When I purchased that pound of shrimp this summer, I was pretty intimidated. I had a recipe in mind, but how was I going to get the shrimp OUT so that I could cook them? Thankfully, Leslie explained how to remove the head and peel the shrimp. Before I get to that though, you should know that when you buy from JT Shrimp, they give you serious freshness. At the DeMotte Market, where I bought mine this summer, Leslie literally caught the live shrimp right there in front of me. She placed them in a plastic bag about 1/3 filled with ice, where the shrimp expired quickly (at least I hope so!) without water.
When I got home, I placed the bag of shrimp in the fridge, and about a half hour before I was ready to peel them, I moved them to the freezer. Leslie assured me this quick freeze would make for easy peeling, and she was right! (I know she was right because I didn’t completely follow her instructions. She suggested taking two shrimp out of the freezer at a time, peeling those, then taking two more, and so on. I did this at first, but about a halfway through I lost my patience and grabbed the rest of the bag, meaning the last five shrimp or so were no longer frozen by the time I got to peeling them. Obvious Moral of the Story: I would’ve saved more time listening to Leslie’s directions.)
Here’s a pictorial journey for the removal of the heads and peeling. Let me just say that Harper is a great helper!
Cut off the head with a chef’s knife or kitchen shears.
Remove the upper legs.
Grasp the tail between your left hand thumb and index finger, grasp the upper section of the shrimp with your right hand thumb and index finger, and PULL!
Your shrimp are ready! Quick note: Don’t throw away the heads and shells. I know they’re not the most pleasant to look at it, but put them in a tupperware and stick them in the fridge. I’ll revisit them at the end of this post.
Now let’s get to this delicious, comfort-food curry!
First, start your rice. I like to serve this curry with organic white basmati rice, which takes about 20 minutes total, with 15 minutes of cooking time. If you start your rice RIGHT NOW, it should be good to go right when your curry is ready.
Next, time to prep your produce. Mince one clove of Perkins’ Good Earth Farm garlic, julienne three carrots, and thinly slice half a red pepper. Set aside. Grab three green onions. Chop two and set aside. For the third, cut into 1 1/2″ pieces, slice each piece in half, and, you guessed it, set aside.
I like to use a wok for this recipe, but you can just as easily use a skillet. Heat your wok over medium-high heat, then add two teaspoons of olive oil. Once the oil’s hot, add the chopped garlic and half the chopped green onion. Saute for about one minute, or until the garlic and onion start to brown.
Next, shake the can of coconut milk as hard as you can since the coconut milk usually separates in the can. Add the milk to the garlic/onions, bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer over medium-low heat.
Stir in one tablespoon of coconut sugar (or brown sugar) and two tablespoons red curry paste. (If you haven’t bought this before, local friends can find it at Tysens Family Market (usually) or Meijer.) (I’m going for a record–how many parentheses can I use in one paragraph?) 🙂
Bring the coconut milk back to a boil. Add the carrots, then lower to a simmer for five minutes.
Add shrimp, peppers, and green onions. Cook for 3-5 minutes, or until shrimp have just turned into a C-shape and the peppers and carrots are al dente. Don’t overcook the shrimp! (To quote from JT Shrimp’s recipe page on their website: “Shrimp that have twisted into an O-shape are terribly, irreparably overcooked. Overcooked shrimp are rubbery and sad. We hope you never have to eat one for your whole life.” I agree!)
So once those shrimp are just turning into C’s, remove the wok from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of fish sauce.
For a pretty presentation, pour a ladle of curry on a plate, top with a cup of rice, drizzle a little more curry and a few shrimp and veggies on top, then sprinkle on more of those chopped green onions. For easier eating, I serve this dish to my children in bowls, with rice on the bottom, curry on top. Either way, yum!
Alright, now to get back to those shrimp peels. Sticking with our waste-free-kitchen theme, don’t throw those out just yet! They’re exactly what you need make a shrimp stock. If you don’t have time for that when you make the curry, no problem. Simply toss the peels and heads in a freezer bag–you can freeze them for up 3 months. And hopefully by then I’ll have posted the recipe I used to make my shrimp stock. I used the stock for cooking rice, and when I tasted the rice I was immediately reminded of paella. Which, naturally, made me want to buy more shrimp.
If you’d like to buy shrimp from JT Shrimp, you can contact Scott and Leslie through their website by clicking here. Don’t forget to comment here and tell us how you used your shrimp!
Photos (except for that first one!): Anne Kingma