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Best uses for frozen shrimp/calamari

I live in a culinary world where, unfortunately, the only real access to shrimp and calimari is to buy it frozen. Calimari (for the most part) is cooked/flash frozen and shrimp is frozen raw (quite expensive) and frozen cooked (cheaper).

Now, I understand that neither option is necessarily ideal - but when I'm craving the flavor - what are good cooking preparations or ways to deal with these frozen products? For frozen shrimp, I've tried to defrost the cooked ones and just add them to sauces at the very last minute before serving (just to warm them up) - but I'd love some new ideas.

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  1. Salads, sauces, stir-fried, baked, sauteed, deep-fried, soups, pasta....assuming they've been frozen correctly, flash-freezing means that you tend to *not* get the mushy weird texture that home-freezing leaves you with.

    You can use properly frozen and gently thawed shrimp and squid in any dish where you'd use fresh.

    (it's all flash-frozen on the boat, anyway, with liquid nitrogen -- even *fresh* shrimp -- and that comes from a couple of shrimp-fleet operators from whom I used to buy shrimp on a regular basis -- the spoilage rate is faster than they can physically get back to the port these days)

    (ETA: As Bubba Gump put it "Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it. ")

    1. Frozen raw shrimp is all I ever buy. I thaw them and then use them to make shrimp scampi, grilled shrimp (I like to marinate in balsamic and rosemary and wrap in partially cooked bacon), shrimp cocktail, ceviche, etc.

      17 Replies
      1. re: Njchicaa

        But if you were going to go the frozen cooked shrimp route....??

        I know this isn't the greatest product, but my fear is mostly that the frozen raw shrimp I buy won't be of very high quality. And while the cooked ones aren't the best, they're fair enough to fit my occasional cravings.

        1. re: cresyd

          If you buy decent frozen raw shrimp (i.e., not a no-name package farmed in Asia) it will be fine.

          1. re: sunshine842

            I'm currently based in Jerusalem - and as the laws of kosher eating don't include shrimp - the supply over here is often from dubious origin. So the whole "no-name package farmed in Asia" is more what I'm talking about - along with questions of the quality.

            1. re: cresyd

              but you should still be able to thaw them gently and use them in any recipe that calls for shrimp. The texture might not be as good -- but they should work well.

              1. re: sunshine842

                I used to thaw shrimp overnight in the fridge, but I no long bother. I find the texture far superior if I just toss the frozen, uncooked shrimp (shell and tail on or off) in a bowl of heavily salted ice-cold water. They thaw in no time and the salt brine firms them up, improving both the texture and the flavor of even less than ideal shrimp.

              2. re: cresyd

                Do you have some reason to think the frozen cooked ones are of less dubious origin?

                I greatly prefer wild caught U.S. shrimp but the Asian farm raised ones are generally ok taste wise to me. I figure if you eat shrimp at a restaurant that is what you will be getting a large part of the time.

                Shrimp freeze very well. I figure most places the "fresh" shrimp have been thawed at least once. I would prefer to buy them still frozen and thaw them when I need them.

                1. re: kengk

                  there's been a lot of press lately about the water quality that Asian farmed shrimp are raised in, as well as the treatment of the workers in the processing plants.

                  do your research and make your own conclusions.

                  1. re: sunshine842

                    Yeah, and American shrimpers are destroying habitat and killing countless tons of by catch every time they set their nets.

                    Like I said, I prefer wild caught U.S. shrimp but if I lived somewhere that farm raised Asian shrimp were all that were available I would eat them.

                    1. re: kengk

                      It's up to each of us to do our own research and make our own decisions.

                      Simply presenting why it is someone might think the frozen cooked ones aren't quite up to par.

                      1. re: sunshine842

                        I think you might have misunderstood me. I would never by frozen cooked shrimp from any source. I was simply wondering why the OP thought the frozen cooked shrimp would be better than the frozen raw shrimp.

                        1. re: kengk

                          I think she said it's a little cheaper.

                          1. re: sunshine842

                            My reason for being...suspicious of the frozen raw shrimp has to do with the fact that they cost between 2 to 3 times the price of the frozen cooked shrimp. And I don't entirely trust their quality. The primary places that sell frozen shellfish are either Russian markets or Asian markets, and sometimes the packaging will literally just be a plastic bag with a twist tie.

                            So it's both an issue of price (do I really want to spend that much - which sure there's an argument about holding off for an even better product). And then the fear that the price is going to come with dubious quality.

                            1. re: cresyd

                              I guess all you can do is ask the vendor about where it comes from, then ask other shoppers about quality (if there's not a prohibitive language barrier - I understand that all too well!)...and then buy a small package to try. If they look decent (not mashed or torn up too much in the process - there are always a few that have been damaged) smell okay, and have decent texture, you're probably good to go.

                              Even the vein isn't necessarily a good indicator...no vein or a light-coloured vein usually indicates that they're farmed...a big black vein is nasty, but may indicate a wild-caught shrimp..

                              It's hard...and I feel for you. Sometimes it's really hard to deal with the "taste of home" cravings when you're a long way from home.

                              1. re: cresyd

                                Regarding the shrimp from Asian markets in a bag with a twist tie: I have no idea what the markets are like in Jerusalem, but here in the NYC area it's not at all unusual for Asian markets to buy things in huge quantities and repackage them. Also, Asians are usually very fussy about the quality of their fish and shellfish. It's certainly no guarantee, but if the local Asians are buying the frozen shrimp and there seems to be good turnover, it might indicate good quality rather than poor.

                                1. re: JoanN

                                  In Tel Aviv, the Asian markets are probably closer to those in the NYC area - but not in Jerusalem.

                                  The bulk of the Asian population in Israel comes from the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam - and the vast bulk work as home healthcare workers. While this population is slowly drifting over into owning businesses, it's still in very limited numbers (given to all sorts of visa/immigration issues). So when I say Asian markets - a) that's just the best description of their ingredients - and it truly is pan-Asian and b) the owners are typically Israeli (not from East Asia).

                                  This isn't to say that they might not be beautiful - I'm just saying that for $20 a pound....the visual rarely inspires confidence. I was once in Cairo and in a Korean restaurant saw shark's fin soup selling for about $3 (USD) - and the joke for the meal was that it was Nile River shark's fin soup. Now for that price - I was willing to take a leap - but when stuff gets more expensive, the leap is less enthusiastic.

              3. re: cresyd

                I don't buy frozen cooked shrimp. Simple enough to cook them myself. I guess I'd do it like you are: thaw an add to sauces at the end to warm them up. You could add to scampi, Alfredo, fra diavolo, etc. even stir fries.

                1. re: cresyd

                  I think you'll be far happier with the results if you get the uncooked shrimp. The cooked-then-frozen texture is mealy and full of moisture that will just release into your dish and dilute your recipe.

              4. I like making Won Ton soup and it's super easy with frozen shrimp and frozen won tons! If I have cooked chicken, I add that. If not, I leave it out. I make a good-sized batch to eat several times or to freeze.

                1. I would go for frozen, uncooked, shell-on shrimp. Let the amount you want to use defrost in the fridge for a day or two. They cook up very well in a couple of minutes using any shrimp-cooking technique. Unless people live near a fishing port, they're likely getting frozen shrimp that have been thawed in the store anyway. Frozen is the norm.

                  1. I make a delicious shrimp salad. I buy the shell-on, 26-30 size frozen shrimp and use Barefoot Contessa's recipe to cook after thawing and cleaning (i.e., toss with a bit of EVOO, salt and pepper and bake at 400 degrees for 5-6 minutes). Chill, cut into large pieces, and then moisten with Hellman's and celery salt. Close your eyes and it's a poor man's lobster salad.

                    1. For cooked, frozen shrimp:

                      Adding them to an Asian noodle soup towards the end, letting them be heated up by the simmering liquid.

                      Shrimp ceviche. Sure, ceviche is traditionally made with uncooked seafood, but I don't think it is necessary. If you don't have a fresh product available, then using cooked shrimp (whether you buy it or cook it yourself) may be preferable to trying to make it with raw, frozen shrimp. Use whatever ingredients are common to ceviche, or similar local substitutes. You can put this in a shrimp taco or turn it into a dip.

                      I have ground up cooked shrimp and put it in meatloaf with poultry. I have also used it in seafood lasagna.

                      Generally, I prefer to have my raw shrimp with shell and head on. If I have a need for unshelled shrimp, then I might opt for a cooked frozen alternative. It depends a bit on price (I only buy if it is on sale) and how much time I have to cook. Cooked, frozen shrimp may also work ok in dishes that are meant to be served cold.

                      1. I recently bought frozen raw shrimp for just $5/lb (on sale). That does not seem "quite expensive" to me. I put them in a tomato/shallot sauce and served them over rice.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: GH1618

                          The OP is in Jerusalem. Here in the U.S. we tend to take for granted how cheap food is compared to other items in our budgets.

                          1. re: kengk

                            Oh, missed that. How about Mediterranean octopus?

                            1. re: GH1618

                              Also not kosher. So when we're talking shellfish (including octopus) - the options are mostly Russian, Asian or Palestinian markets, and the packaging doesn't always inspire great confidence. Or is incredibly expensive.

                              Pork here is actually much more trust worthy and cost efficient. Between Christian Palestinians and Russian immigrants - and a growing Asian population of shoppers - that is not difficult to get. Admittedly, I am asking for help as shellfish has not exactly been a flavor/food item that I've been thrilled to give up. So every now and then I'm willing to spend more for a product that I know is of a subpar quality, just because I miss it.

                          2. re: GH1618

                            The OP states she's in Jerusalem,where most folks don't eat shrimp at all, so it's pricey and hard to find.

                          3. I've never bought frozen cooked calamari, but nearly always have frozen raw & cooked shrimp, as well as frozen raw calamari, in the freezer. Find them so handy.

                            The calamari ends up in pasta sauce or stirfry; shrimp ends up in anything calling for shrimp - stirfries, soups, salads, jambalaya, gumbo, pasta dishes, etc., etc. It's nice in an emergency to have a box of Zatarain's & a bag of frozen shrimp in the freezer for a quick meal. Or to throw a handful of frozen cooked shrimp into a quick ramen soup lunch. The possibilities are endless (& quick/easy).

                            1. You can thaw frozen shrimp, cut into small chunks, and mix it into a standard ground pork + egg + chives or scallions dumpling filling and make Chinese dumplings/potstickers. Maybe also try using the frozen shrimp with veggies in Thai curries?

                              1. I like these shrimp burgers, but add an egg white or 2 to hold them together better.


                                1. I tend to buy frozen-raw shrimp. They're incredibly versatile and the texture of the frozen-raw ones is much better. Last time I used calamari it was in a fish pie (I make a white sauce and top with mashed potato then bake).

                                  1. I like to buy frozen shrimp, wrap each one with bacon, skewer, grill over hot fire for 10 minutes
                                    Oui la la

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: paul balbin

                                      Great if you add a little horseradish. I think that makes it Shrimp Le Jon.

                                    2. At the supermarkets here, the unfrozen shrimp is simply the frozen shrimp defrosted -- they defrost the bags you buy frozen and sell them. So I consider it an advantage to buy it frozen -- it hasn't been hanging around defrosted for who knows how long.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: thymeoz

                                        Same here!!

                                        One time I was at the market & was looking for a specific size of shrimp that they apparently had run out of at the seafood counter. The woman walked out from behind the counter, grabbed a few bags of frozen, & voila - she suddenly had more inventory - lol! So now, unless they're running a special sale on the defrosted, I just buy the frozen. This way, if something happens & I can't use them that day, there's no rush - the shrimp can stay in the freezer.

                                      2. Agree with thymeoz... think a LOT of "fresh" shrimp just doesn't have visible ICE on them?!? Seems almost all shrimp in supermarket comes from half way round the world... really COLD temps would be absolutely necessary for them to make that trip. Don't know if it's just in my head, but stuff from "there" seems to have less flavor and sometimes a softer texture??

                                        When nice shrimp is on sale, I'll buy a few lbs and repackage and vac seal for long life in freezer. A package of 12-15 shrimp is totally thawed and ready to cook after maybe 20-25 minute swim (in vac bag) in room temp water.