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