Friday, June 13, 2008

Don't Throw Your Crustacean Shells Away

I'm even thinking of showing up at my local seafood restaurant and volunteering for some bussing duty.
I'll only clear the tables that ordered shellfish, though. Lobsters. Shrimp. Crawdads, if they got 'em.
My secret is that I will be carrying a bag inside my busboy jacket to dump the shells into.
The rest of the leavings, I'll just crash into that plastic garbage bin they all use. Yeah, I'll be good at this. Do we share tips at this place, 'cause I'm awesome!
Until they run me out for strange behavior.
I quiver to think how many crustacean shells I've tossed into the trash just because I'm stupid and didn't think of this: Crustacean shells make insane stock.
Not stock, exactly, because you don't want to cook it much longer than a half-hour, and there's no gelatin.
But the flavor extraction is rich, and quick!
This was Cranky's version: a batch of "used" shrimp shells simmered gently with some fennel fronds, minced onion and empty English pea pods. Herbs. Salt.
This is a very special recipe, so remember it: shrimp shells, fennel fronds and pea pods. Complete innovation. Until somebody tells me it's very common; that everybody knows this already. (Please, no.)
The pea pods were a special whim. Oh: rich, green flavor. Fresh. Springlike. Good Cranky, good boy.
The problem with the final execution of our meal (and I blame myself for this part of the idea) is that greenish stock makes stracciatella look dingy and icky.
It wasn't a genuine stracciatella; we added tiny pasta strings for nutritional bulk.
I'll tell you what, though. A colorblind person would have loved it. I ate mine with my eyes closed; it was that good.


gay said...

That must have been really tasty. Here in the Philippines, we buy shrimps still with shells. When use shrimps for stir fry, we pound the shells in mortar and pestle, add a bit of water and extract the juice. We add this to the stir fried veggies. Really flavorful!

Robert said...

What, you've never made shrimp shell, fennel frond, and pea pod stock before? We call it SSFFPP here and never have less than 2 quarts in the freezer at any time.

Well . . . maybe not. But shrimp stock is one of the best kept secrets of good cooking, and if you ever have a chance to buy heads-on shrimp, by all means do it. The heads take the stock to an even higher level.

Good luck on the covert shellfish busing operation.

Barbara said...

I've often wondered if it was possible. I must try it.

Zoomie said...

Wow, that sounds awesome! One question, when you say pea pods, do you mean the pods from which English peas are extracted, or sugar snap peas, or snow peas? I should probably know this but if you mean English pea pods, I'm gonna kick myself because I threw some on my compost heap just yesterday!

Zoomie said...

My bad! I just re-read and see the answer to my pea question. Rats!

dancingmorganmouse said...

I may have mentioned this before but you can also use those shells to make a flavourful oil, that's really special.

kudzu said...

With the economy and our food prices the way they are today, I say, "Don't throw nothin' away."

Know all about the shell action/stock, but I can tell you the pea pods are a new twist.

If you score the shells from anywhere, be sure you have a cold pack in the swag bag.

kudzu said...

PS I was taught to never throw away the shells of fresh shrimp that were used in any way. They were automatically used for a shellfish stock. Cooked shells of any crustaceans have less accessible flavor but are worth the effort.

cook eat FRET said...

i have the shrimp shells in my freezer but have yet to come up with a plan...

thanks for the reminder

if i evr cook real food agaon i will be sure and use them...

cookiecrumb said...

Gay: So nice to hear about your traditional use of the shells... In America we don't have much of a history of using them. Although I recall watching Julia Child on TV pounding lobster shells for a flavored butter.

Robert: You joker. :D
But, yeah! A best-kept secret, OMG. Thanks for the heads-on advice, dude.

Barbara: Oh, gosh, SO possible. My recommendation is "not too long" in the simmering bath.

Zoomie: I meant the pods you extracted "real" English peas from. It's OK to toss them on the compost pile, but only AFTER you simmer out this goodness! Heh.

Morgan: You have mentioned this before, and I still haven't learned how to do it, but. My, oh, my. Sounds fantastic.

Kudzu: Cranky is inordinately pleased by your acknowledgment of his innovation. I had a suspicion that uncooked shells might harbor more flavor, but -- well, these shrimp (wild, from Alaska) had only been in the skillet a couple of minutes, and it's still amazing how tasty they are.

ceF: What are you eating these days? Oh, magic berry juice, I remember. Party on!

Zoomie said...

I'm sending you a blog award today, "You Make My Day" again - I know you got it earlier but you make _my_ day as well as Anna's.

Heather said...

Hey, I save my shells too! But I've never asked a busboy to facilitate this.

Last year I went to a crawfish boil and I bagged a ton of shells and heads. The host thought I was crazy until he tasted my etoufee.

cookiecrumb said...

Zoomie: Aw, jeepers! Thank you.

Heather: You really know your f'shizzle; I've always thought so. Question -- Crystal, Frank's or McIlhenny?

Rev. Biggles said...

Hmm, bottom feeders. I like to eat animals that play in mud, that's more my speed. More for everyone else!

Am getting ready to post recipe for the best damned bbq sauce ever.

Damned work, making me miss my afternoon nap. I need to retire, how much does that cost?


Stacie said...

on new years eve we made a huge party guest blunder... my bro and sis in law were visiting from AK and brought a bunch of crab legs... mmmmmmmmmmm........ my hub and I then instantly knew we had to make stock, during the party, at my in laws... bad form... weird smell scaring midwesterners...

cookiecrumb said...

Biggles: I saw your recipe. Lots of ketchup (eek), but I believe you if you say it's the best. Vinegar helps.

Stacie: Funny story! Did you already write about this?