Chesapeake-Style Steamed Shrimp
Whenever I visit friends in Annapolis, Maryland for a sail around the Chesapeake Bay, I always look forward to ripping into big piles of steamed blue crabs and shrimp.
A lot of seafood spots there create their own spice mixture for steaming shellfish, but just as many rely on commercial Old Bay Seasoning, which is really good too.
For this recipe, you can follow the directions here and make your own spice seasoning, or just substitute an equal quantity of Old Bay Seasoning—your choice.
(This seasoning recipe contains less salt than Old Bay if you’re watching your salt intake.)
Ingredients for Chesapeake-Style Steamed Shrimp:
1 lb. shell-on shrimp, preferably deveined
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
A drizzle of olive oil — about a tablespoon
1/2 medium onion, sliced
For the seasoning mix:
1 Tbsp ground bay leaves
3 Tbs. paprika
2 Tbsp. celery salt (or 1 Tbsp. salt plus 1 Tbsp. celery seed)
1 1/2 tsp. mustard powder
1 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1 tsp. smoked paprika (available in stores specializing in products from Spain, or just use regular paprika)
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. ground mace
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1. If you’re making your own spice mix, put all of the spice mix ingredients into an airtight container and shake well to mix thoroughly. The mix will last for months, stored in a cool place. In addition to seafood, it’s also great sprinkled on French fries, chicken, rice and other foods.
2. Place the vinegar, water, and sliced onion into a saucepan or stockpot. Bring to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, place the shrimp into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. The olive oil helps the spice seasoning adhere to the shrimp.
4. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix or Old Bay Seasoning per each pound of shrimp. Toss or stir to make sure all the shrimp get some of the spice mix seasonings.
5. When the water/vinegar boils, place a steamer basket into the pot. Transfer the shrimp to the steamer basket and cover.
6. Allow the shrimp to steam for 6-7 minutes (depending on the size of the shrimp), until they are pink and cooked through. You might need to uncover the shrimp and give them a stir or two so they cook evenly.
7. Transfer the shrimp to a serving bowl or platter, allow them to cool a bit or chill them in the fridge, then enjoy the peel-and-eat shrimp with plenty of napkins or paper towels; they’re messy!
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Originally trained as an anthropologist, Ted Scheffler is a seasoned food, wine & travel writer based in Utah. He loves cooking, skiing, and spends an inordinate amount of time tending to his ever-growing herd of guitars and amplifiers.
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