Loaded with protein and low in calories, shrimp are a great addition to a light lunch or dinner. But what can make the meal a standout? Try these tips from our chef.
If you’re looking for the best shrimp flavor, you need to start with the basics, says Dan Kish, head chef at Panera Bread®. And that means bypassing those convenient bags of ready-to-eat shrimp and instead purchasing untreated, chemical-free fresh or frozen shrimp that have not been peeled or cooked.
“There’s a little more prep involved when buying your shrimp in the shell, but it’s worth the time and effort,” says Dan. “You can absolutely taste the difference.” He shares some other factors that can enhance the flavor of shrimp.
The Best Prep
To infuse shrimp with flavor and protect the delicate meat from drying out, Dan recommends cooking shrimp in the shell—the Panera way.
Before you get started, here’s what you need to know:
- Opt for medium-size shrimp (a count of 31 to 40 pieces per pound is good for a number of serving options), though individual recipes and personal preference may vary your selection.
- Devein shrimp before cooking. Dip the point of a skewer or a sharp paring knife under the shell between the first and second section (near the tail), hook the vein, and pull it out in one swift movement. “It’s like a crocheting motion,” says Dan.
- Keep shrimp cold while you are doing your prep work.
Shrimp cook very quickly, regardless of whether you boil, grill, or sauté them. Once shrimp have cooled, you can remove the shells and tails. Hold the shrimp by the tail with one hand. With the other hand, grasp the legs on the underside of the shrimp and the edge of the shell between your thumb and forefinger and pull, says Dan. You can then pull off the tail or leave it on for a fancier presentation.
Smart Pairing and Seasoning
Because they have a mild taste, shrimp are best paired with foods that have stronger flavors. Panera’s Chilled Shrimp & Soba Noodle Salad, prepared with fresh baby spinach and an orange-miso dressing, and the Shrimp Salad Roll, tossed with lemon-tarragon mayo, are bursting with flavor. Both of these summer menu items have unique flavor profiles that enhance the delicate freshness of our hand-peeled shrimp.
“Tarragon and other finishing herbs, including basil, chervil, chives, and cilantro, are delicious with shrimp,” says Dan.
Other great flavor combinations to try:
- White wine and butter
- Garlic and lemon
- Lime and cilantro
- The traditional blend of Old Bay Seasoning (Panera sprinkles it on the Shrimp Salad Roll)
“And don’t forget the classic perfection of a shrimp cocktail,” says Dan. “The horseradish and chile flavors in the cocktail sauce wake up your appetite. It’s one of the best appetizers there is.”