Talk about fresh shrimp? I helped haul in the net that held that catch.

It was messy, dirty, smelly hard work. Talk about labor? We’d left the dock at 4:00 am.

But, check out my grin.

As a chef and a cook I have a natural curiosity about where my food comes from, its origin. I want to know who made it, who grew it, who harvested it.

I love knowing the source for many reasons. First and foremost is the taste and wholesomeness of the food.

Many years ago I once stood on top of a hillside in Chablis, France looking at the vineyards. There was a map so that the visitor could see the areas designated for Grand Cru, Premier Cru, etc.

Cru is a French wine term which means “growth place”. The terms Grand Cru and Premier Cru are translated into English as Grand Growth and First Growth. The vineyards designated Grand Cru are on the sunniest part of the slope are have the best conditions for growth.

I had the proverbial lightbulb moment regarding wine. The best grapes grow in the best environment.

Guess what? Same for a tomato or an ear of corn, or a chicken or a cow. Or a shrimp.

The best comes from the best environment.

In this day and age, many people are removed from where their food comes from. There’s a reason that blueberry tastes so good. It was grown in the best environment, harvested at the best time, and transported under the best conditions.

We could talk food politics, factory farming, and food safety well past dinnertime. Even if you aren’t remotely interested, there is the simple fact of appreciating the number of people who are involved and their labor to keep you and yours fed.

I want to support people who labor to do good work. I want to support the stores that buy from the people who do good work.

Last weekend I spent the weekend doing just that, learning what it takes to get shrimp to our plates. We were on the Georgia coast shooting the pilot for “What it Takes”, a 13-part series all about what it takes to get the food on your plate. There’s lots and lots more to come, and we’ve got a lot of work to do, so “stay tuned” (sorry, couldn’t help myself.) Best place for that right now is by following this blog or friending me on Facebook.

Still on deadline, I am taking a brief detour from my promotion of The Pork Chop Theory to share with you some happy snaps from last weekend and recipe for Poached Georgia Shrimp for you to enjoy this upcoming weekend.

I want to share my sincere and heartfelt thanks to these folks for their hard labor: Gena Berry, Taylor and Camille Adams, Mama Laura Berry, Melanie McCraney, Mike Thomas and Olivia Sellers, and Carlin Breinig.

I feel very much loved and I am very, very thankful.

Bon Appétit, Y’all!
VA

Here I am with Brande Bennett, 4th generation shrimper from Brunswick. The Georgia coastline is part of the largest saltwater marsh in the world. Men and women have made their lives for centuries fishing and harvesting from the low country estuaries, sounds, and sea.

It took me an hour to fill one of these baskets, in the meanwhile Brande and her dad, Captain Johnny had filled two a piece.

Captain Johnny about to “surf the boards”, heavy doors that keep the nets submerged.


Getting ready to get busy.

The end result!

Poached Georgia Shrimp
Serves 4 to 6

The shrimp can be prepared completely ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. The most important part is bathing them in the lemon mixture while they are still warm. Simply bring the shrimp to room temperature before serving. It’s high shrimp season, so enjoy these as a little nibble while the burgers or steaks are grilling.

Jumbo, large, and medium are all arbitrary designations for shrimp. Chefs buy shrimp according to an industry designation—the count per pound. For example, a count of 41/50 means that there are between 41 and 50 shrimp per pound, while U12 indicates that there are “under 12” shrimp per pound. In general, large shrimp are 21/25 count, extra-large are 16/20 count, and jumbo shrimp are 11/15 count.

12 cups water
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
1 lemon, halved
1/2 onion, preferably Vidalia, peeled
2 bay leaves, preferably fresh
1 tablespoon coarse salt, plus more to taste
11/2 pounds unshelled large shrimp (21/25 count)
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 baguette, sliced 1/4 inch thick, for accompaniment

To poach the shrimp, in a large pot, combine the water, carrot, celery, lemon, onion, bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon of the salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to low. Simmer gently for about 10 minutes to make a flavorful court-bouillon. Return the heat to high and bring the mixture to a rolling boil. Add the shrimp and boil until the shells are pink and the meat is white, 1 to 2 minutes. Do not overcook.

Drain the shrimp in a colander. As soon as the shrimp are just cool enough to touch, peel and devein them.

To dress the shrimp, while they are still warm, place them in a large bowl with the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to coat, then season with salt and pepper. Marinate the shrimp at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to 1 hour before serving. Add the chopped parsley and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve the shrimp on baguette slices, drizzled with some of the juices.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, www.virginiawillis.com

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