Chef Isaac Toups, the acclaimed chef at Toups' Meatery in New Orleans and author of Chasing the Gator: Isaac Toups And The New Cajun Cooking, explains why his signature take on peel-and-eat shrimp is an indisputably great NFL game day dish in the recipe below.
“Boiled shrimp are one of the easiest ways to feed a mess of people in a hurry. I figure around a half-pound per person—though, in Cajun country, you should probably figure a pound per head, because more folks always seem to show up whenever you throw shrimp on to boil. Here I split the difference and say 4 pounds will serve 6 people."
“Peel and eat shrimp is easy to make and communal. Whoever you’re watching the game with will be eating right next to you. Family style eating is my favorite way to eat. Food is meant to be shared, especially on game day. I like to pair my peel and shrimp with a beer (or several). Don’t think it gets more game day than that.”
PEEL & EAT CAJUN SHRIMP
3 gallons water
3 cups white wine vinegar
1 ½ cups kosher salt
1 ½ cups sugar
24 bay leaves (truthfully, I just grab a big fistful)
36 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons celery salt
1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
4 pounds head-on extra jumbo shrimp (about 16 to 20 per pound)
16 cups ice
Note: If you can’t get head-on shrimp, that’s okay. Just make sure they have an intact shell.
Put the water, vinegar, salt, sugar, bay leaves, garlic, celery salt, and cayenne in the 5-gallon stockpot and bring to a rolling boil over high heat.
Once the water is boiling, add the shrimp and cook uncovered for 2. minutes. Remove the shrimp using a spider or strainer and place in a large nonreactive mixing bowl. Add 4 cups of the poaching liquid and the ice and give it a good stir to disperse the ice throughout.
I prefer my shrimp still warm, so I usually let the shrimp sit for just a minute, then drain and throw them out on the table for people to eat. (You can chill them all the way down in the ice and place the drained shrimp in the fridge if you prefer them cold.)
But even when serving them warm, you have to shock them straight from the pot with the ice. If you don’t, the shells will stick to the shrimp. And that’s a big faux pas where I grew up.