We stayed on Hilton Head island in South Carolina for one week for our vacation. Numerous shrimp boats were visible in the coastal waters. Sometimes, they came very close to shore during the day. At night, they tended to stay off shore with their lights visible beacons on the horizon.
On a previous visit several years ago I saw they were having a special on local white shrimp at the grocery store. I put two and two together figuring that with all these shrimp boats around, the shrimp should be pretty good. I suggested we buy a pound and my wife who had experienced only previously frozen shrimp in the grocery store at home suggest a 1/4 pound. We settled on 1/2 pound. We cooked them up and discovered one of the absolute delights of the region. The shrimp were very, very fresh, very sweet, tender and succulent–we had never tasted anything like it before. We were hooked. We now buy them by the pounds. They became a culinary focus of our visits to the island.
The best way to eat this fresh shrimp is to simply boil them in salted water with the shells on. I sometimes de-vein the shrimp (without taking the shells off) but other times, I do not. The secret to de-veining shrimp without removing the shell is to use a serrated small knife to cut into the back side of the shrimp through the shell. If I see a dark vein (intestine, actually), I take it out. To boil the shrimp, I use just enough salted water to cover them. After the water comes to the boil, I put the shrimp in and cook them for 1 minute or less. I sometimes make a separate dipping sauce but I usually just pour melted butter over the cooked shrimp, add more salt if needed, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. Just shell the shrimp and eat.This is such a good dish because the basic ingredient is so fresh and special it shines even with the simplest preparation. This is also a classic American finger food, “Peel ‘n Eat shrimp”. For example local bars along the beach have “shrimp by the bucket” specials. It’s great fun to sit in the sun, next to the beach peeling and eating shrimp. The shrimp makes this a particularly wonderful appetizer or, in our case, even dinner with a good Ciabata bread from a local market. We use the bread to soak up the juices that gather in the bottom of the bowl. Beer or white wine, such as Sauvignon blanc, are the usual pairings but we stuck with a red wine, Orin-Swift Papillon 2007. This came in the heaviest body builder bottle for 750ml that I have ever known. It was overpriced in the local wine store to boot but it is a big wonderful red.