After reading American Catch: The Fight for Our Local Seafood, I decided to buy some local wild shrimp. Funny how local shrimp are more expensive than the shrimp imported all the way from Thailand or Indonesia. But those farmed shrimp come at a great cost to the environment and our health:
- Mangroves, critical for spawning fish and protecting coastlines, are destroyed for shrimp farming.
- The shrimp are packed so tightly in stagnant ponds they are prone to disease and die-offs, so antibiotics, pesticides, and detergents are required.
- They’re treated with phosphates before shipping, which increases the weight of seafood (but then they shrink and get chewy when you cook them, which is why chefs call them ‘gummy bear shrimp’).
- Only 2 percent of imported shrimp are tested for pesticides and antibiotics.
Wild shrimp have some downsides, particularly with bycatch (other species that are caught with them and can be killed in the process). But American shrimpers are now required to use BRDs (bycatch reduction devices) and TEDs (turtle excluder devices). Pollution is an issue here, too, but our domestic seafood is subject to much more regulation and inspection than what we import.
We have to get away from the all-you-can-eat buffet of gummy bear shrimp. Let’s make it a special occasion food like it used to be. Find a local shrimp boat or go to a seafood market that carries fresh, wild shrimp like Louisiana Brown shrimp or Key West Pinks. You don’t need a lot, just a big handful will do. Take them home, grill them, and taste the difference.
Grilled Shrimp, Okra and Tomatoes with Creole Mustard Sauce
- 3/4 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 2 cups okra (smaller pods preferred)
- 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 5-6 bamboo skewers
- grapeseed or other high-heat oil
For the Creole Mustard Sauce:
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons Creole or whole-grain mustard
- 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
- 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
- salt and pepper
Heat the grill to medium-high.
Soak skewers in water for an hour. Thread the okra, tomatoes and shrimp on the skewers. I find beginning and ending with okra works well because it stays firmly in place. I also recommend threading the skewer through the shrimp in two places so it forms a C-shape. Brush over the vegetables and shrimp with the oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Prepare the Creole mustard sauce by combining the mayonnaise, mustard, green onion, worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, garlic powder, paprika and cayenne. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Grill the skewers for 3-4 minutes on each side, or until the shrimp are fully cooked, bright and plump. Transfer to a platter and serve with Creole mustard sauce.