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Cold Boiled Shrimp - what are your preferences?

I intend to serve cold boiled shrimp w/ two dipping sauces at a party for 80 soon. I'm wondering what people prefer. I myself like to peel the shrimp myself. I think having the shell on makes the shrimp tastier and lets me know it was more likely to be fresh. On the other hand, my husband is prissy and hates to peel his own shrimp. I suppose I could peel down to the tail as a compromise. What say you?

I will decide on deveining once I see the shrimp. Any suggestions for how to devein w/out shucking?

What "count" of shrimp do think makes the nicest presentation, while still tasting good? I often find that the really big ones have less flavor (in addition to making me broke).


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  1. I don't eny you. Enough shrimp for 80 is a LOT of peeling. OTOH, picturing 80 people standing around peeling their own invites one heck of a mess around the house. I'd probably cheat and buy frozen bulk cooked, peeled and cleaned shrimp for this may people, unless you're doing it all outside. Then I'd buy fresh and leave the shell on and cook it myself. You can devein through the shell just as if it were shelled. Just have a sharp knife.

    1. Unless you want to find shrimp peels all over your house for the next millennium, I would peel them before service! Yes, it will take a while to get them all done, but in the end you will thank yourself for having done so. You could always hire a prep cook to come in for a couple of hours and give you a hand.

      Like I said, if you don't, you are certainly doomed to find those peels everywhere, just like the cicadas in Chicago this summer. and it won't be pretty.

      1. I would definitely peel them for this kind of an event. Do you have a deveiner/peeler? It makes life much easier and costs just a dollar or two.

        1. Please don't succumb to pre-cooked, frozen shrimp! Buy the freshest 26-30 shrimp you can find--and ask if they're pond raised or wild-caught American shrimp. Pick another appetizer if all you can get is pond-raised, imported frozen junk. 26-30s will allow people to enjoy the taste, rather than simply marveling over the size. I like this size for BBQ shrimp and cocktails and fried shrimp; they're big enough without being huge and chewy the way bigger ones can be. I paid $5.00 a pound for fresh 21-25s (white shrimp) last Saturday, as a benchmark.

          I agree that head & shell on are the way to go for optimum taste, but I wouldn't want 80 people with shrimpy fingers all over the inside of my house. Boil intact and peel before the event...peel down to the last tail segment for a nice presentation.

          So now on to sauces: homemade horseradish mayo is good, as is a wasabi or chioptle mayo. And remoulade is a must, IMHO. I like hoisin or peanut sauce, too.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Hungry Celeste

            OK, the vote is strongly in favor of pre-peeled. Would you still feel the same way if I say this thing is not being held at my house? I have rented a grand old home that's currently a Woman's Club. Shrimp shells in the draperies are their problem.

            Celeste, we are sisters in shrimp. There will be no bag of frozen, pond raised in Thailand shrimp. I have a quote of 7.99 for 26-30 and 9.99 for 21-25 fresh shrimp from the Gulf. I tried for SC coastal shrimp but my guy couldn't get them. I'll be doing a test pound just to make sure his quality hasn't slipped lately.

            I'm leaning toward classic cocktail sauce + ginger-mayo. (I already did a sauce thread) Maybe I should do a third ...something sweet like the hoisin or peanut.

            OK, question I forgot: how many pounds for 80 people. There will also be beef tenderloin and rolls, ham biscuits, canapes, cheese, hot dip, fruit, veggie, cookie, cake. (this is a party for mostly elderly folks....I've restrained myself from serving anything too "weird")

            1. re: danna

              Chowsters peel their own shrimp but many people find that yuccky. I'g guess most senior citizens would feel that way.

              100% -- peel them.

              Where do you live that you can get fresh shrimp, lucky you!

              1. re: danna

                Shrimp math is easy, since they're graded in number per pound. I'd go with at least 15 pounds (at 25 per pound, this is ~4.6 shrimp per person, or $120 for the 26-30s ). If you want lots of shrimp, round up a couple of pounds. I routinely do shrimp & remoulade dipping sauce for big parties and I've never ever ever had a leftover shrimp. Now is the time to break out the huge crystal or sterling punchbowl and mound those shrimp high.

                Even though you don't have to clean the catering hall's drapes, I'd still boil in the shell, then peel down to the last segment, esp if your crowd is elderly. 15 pounds of shrimp seems like a lot, but it won't take more than an hour and a half to peel, unless you're really, really slow. 2 lbs takes me less than 10 minutes if I'm not deveining as I go.

                And my shrimping neighbors thank you for your patronage. Sorry your SC shrimp aren't available, but you know that Louisiana seafood isn't so bad ;)

              2. re: Hungry Celeste

                I'm with Celeste - serve remoulade. It's the best with shrimp. And it's not so spicy or weird that it will shock older folks. And on the frozen issue - scubadoo is right. All shrimp is flash frozen at sea. It spoils too fast.

                1. re: lupaglupa

                  No, ALL shrimp is most certainly NOT flash-frozen at sea. Quite a bit of US wild-caught shrimp is fished in near-shore waters along the Gulf Coast, and it is landed fresh not long after it is caught. Furthermore, another big chunk of wild-caught shrimp are from in-shore estuaries, fished from smallish boats that sell their catch every day or two. So you can find never-frozen shrimp, you just have to make an effort and be willing to pay for a quality product.

                  Here's a link to my local seafood market, Bayou Bounty, which ships nationwide: http://store.bayoubountystore.com/sh1... 16-20 shrimp are $7.95 a pound, plus shipping. Note the very specific language under the shrimp description regarding their never-frozen state. Support a small business, the Louisiana seafood industry, and say no to pond-raised, imported dreck. If you won't tolerate hormone-filled, feedlot beef, why buy antibiotic-filled, pond-raised imported shrimp?

              3. will your local fish monger peel, clean, and cook for you? if so, this is the way to go. if not, and you don't want to give over a full day to prepping the shrimp, precooked and frozen from a high quality purveyor can work.

                1. Unless you are close to a coast, your locally available shrimp has probably been frozen already.
                  So as an option, in many places you can get frozen, peeled, tail on, uncooked shrimp.
                  Easy peel shrimp is also available in many areas as an option.

                  I agree that 26/30 is probably the best size.

                  1. For a party of 80, I would definitely peel them in advance. Otherwise you will find shrimp shells all over the place. Plus there will be some people who won't be too keen on peeling their own shrimp. Party food should be effortless, easy-to-eat so that conversation can sparkle.

                    In terms of dipping sauces, there's a great olive oil based on by Marcella Hazan. I can give you the recipe if you'd like. I know cocktail sauce is very popular, but never liked it personally.

                    1. Probably not the most Chowhoundish answer -- but most of us buy shrimp that has already been frozen because of where we live, so have you considered buying cleaned raw shrimp to start with? You can get it in the supermarket, and Sam's has 2 lbs of this in various sizes, 31-40 and the super jumbo for about $13 to $14. The beauty of this is that they are already deveined and peeled with only tails on. I do know my shrimp and do buy fresh when I can, but this is so much easier. In the interest of full disclosure, I recently got scolded by another CH post saying that Sam's shrimp was mushy and tasteless, but I never had that experience and buy their stuff all the time for large groups. The other post may have had a bag that was thawed and refrozen, because I have found the texture and taste to be perfect. It is average good shrimp, not the pink Key West stuff, but most people seem to love it.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: RGC1982

                        oh gosh, that was me! didn't mean to scold, just offer another opinion. sorry if it came across bad.

                        I really don't mind the peeling, I just want to know what people prefer. It appears that everyone is definitely in the peeled camp. As usual, if I want to find out what the majority prefers I should just "do the opposite". (my car is a stick, etc.)

                      2. I often do Shrimp Cocktail for a crowd. My Fish Store will shell them as a courtesy, but I find that Shrimp boiled in their shell have much more flavor. They are much easier to peel and devein after they are cooked.

                        For a large crowd served Buffet style, I prefer to use medium-large Shrimp. The really large, Jumbo and Gargantuan are great for a spectacular presentation at a sit down dinner party, but are wasted, IMHO on a large group.

                        I take a huge pot of boiling water. Add a lot of salt, and a few sachets of Zataran's Crab and Shrimp Boil and a few lemons, cut in half. Be sure to turn up the exhaust fan and not inhale the brew!. Bring to a rolling boil and add your shrimp in the shell. When they come to a boil again, boil for 3 minutes. Turn off the heat, and allow to cool in the liquid.

                        When cool , fish out the shrimp and place in a big pot of ice water, more ice than water. When totally cold, remove the shell. It should come off very easily. You can leave the tails on or off.

                        You can do this a day ahead. Pat the Shrimp dry, and refrigerate in Freezer bags or Tupperware.

                        I make a classic Cocktail Sauce with Heinz Chili Sauce, using Lemon Zest, Lemon Juice and lots of Prepared Bottled Red Horseradish.

                        I make a Sauce Aurore with Mayo, Yogurt, Creme Fraiche 1/3 each, and a little Ketchup to get it the right shade of pink, and some fresh snipped dill.

                        The Mayo, Yogurt, Creme Fraiche base is something I learned in France. There I used 1/4 each of the Mayo, Yogurt, Creme Fraiche, and add 1/4 of Fromage Blanc. You can make a large batch of this, divide it into four bowls and make four different sauces : I also like Curry, Cucumber and Dill, the variations are endless.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Fleur

                          thanks for all that, Fluer. You answered some questions I hadn't even thought to ask yet.

                        2. When I peel and devein my shrimp, I use a stainless steel haircutting scissors (that I keep for kitchen use only) to cut the shell down the back. It will both slit the shell and open up the shrimp flesh down to the vein, making it easy to rinse out. You can do this either before or after cooking the shrimp. This makes them easy to peel.

                          However, I can't imagine a bunch of elderly folks, many who probably have arthritis in their hands, peeling shrimp.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: gperls

                            We did a taste test using fresh unccoked shrimp from our local fish monger and frozen shell on shrimp from Trader Joe's. I wish (for the purists sake) that there was a difference in taste or texture, but there wasn't. I cook my shrimp for about 3 minutes and the shrimp from T.J.'s were fantastic, but the price was the same as you're paying for fresh, so go w/the fresh. My feeling is that if you have 5 shrimp/person or 10/person, they will all be eaten, si I tend to err on the side of glutony. Have a great time!

                            1. re: jnk

                              Regarding your taste test: did you ask the fish store if the shrimp were fresh-never-frozen? Many places sell defrosted IQF shrimp as "fresh". So you may have been comparing shrimp defrosted by you with shrimp defrosted by your fishmonger.

                              1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                Very true, I take for granted that a fish monger will tell you whether or not the "product" was frozen (some signs tell you). But truthfully, you might be right.

                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                  Unless you live near a place where shrimp are harvested or are shopping at a very upscale fish market, it is a near certainty that the "fresh" shrimp in the case has been previously frozen.