Friends of mine own a sailboat anchored in Annapolis, Md., and whenever we're sailing around the Chesapeake Bay, we always find places to gorge ourselves on steamed shrimp and blue crabs. --- In Maryland, they're usually seasoned with a spicy mix that includes chili powder, bay leaf, pepper, salt and assorted other spices.
Of course, you could just go out and buy a can of Old Bay Seasoning and proceed with this recipe using that. I like Old Bay Seasoning a lot, and it's readily available in local supermarkets. However, I find Old Bay to be pretty salty and I like the complexity of this Maryland-style seasoning mix, which is also has less sodium than Old Bay.
Feel free to experiment with different spice combinations; I did. For example, this is a fairly mild seasoning mix. If you'd like to kick up the heat level, just add more cayenne powder and/or black pepper.
Also, this recipe serves two people as a main course -- figure on about half pound of shrimp per person. You can easily double or triple the recipe. The amount of seasoning mix here will season 4 pounds of shrimp or more.
Also, if you'd like to make your own mix from scratch, I find that a Krups coffee grinder is great for grinding spices like peppercorns and bay leaves into powder. I don't drink coffee, so my grinder is dedicated to spice grinding.
1 lb. shell-on shrimp, preferably deveined
1 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
Olive oil -- about a tablespoon
1/2 medium onion, sliced
For the seasoning mix:
1 Tbs. ground bay leaves
3 Tbs. paprika
2 Tbs. celery salt (or 1 Tbs. salt plus 1 Tbs. 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
First, 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.
Place the vinegar, water and sliced onion into a saucepan or stock pot. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, place the shrimp into a large bowl and drizzle with olive oil. The olive oil helps the spice seasoning adhere to the shrimp.
Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of the seasoning mix per each pound of shrimp. Toss or stir to make sure all the shrimp get some of the spice mix seasoning.
When the water/vinegar boils, place a steamer basket into the pot.
Transfer the shrimp into the steamer basket and cover.
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.
Transfer the shrimp to a serving bowl or plate and enjoy with plenty of napkins or paper towels; they're messy!
Shrimp are pictured here with red beans and rice.
Photos by Ted Scheffler