Shrimp Make a Big Name for Themselves on the Menu

Restaurants are utilizing this crave-worthy, versatile seafood in many delicious ways.

Whoever said “good things come in small packages” may have been talking about shrimp. That’s because restaurants are finding new ways to cost-effectively elevate shrimp on the menu.

Shrimp are king when it comes to versatility. They can be used in appetizers, salads, soups, sides and entrees. With this kind of cross-utilization, shrimp are an easy menu addition. In the hands of a creative chef, recipe possibilities are as abundant as the many kinds and types of shrimp available.

These crustaceans come in many varieties (rock shrimp, brown shrimp, Pacific white shrimp, pink shrimp, tiger shrimp, etc.). They come in many sizes (pay attention to the number – “U/15” means under 15 per pound; “16/25” means about that many per pound, and so on). They also come packaged in styles ranging from raw to cooked, block frozen to flash frozen, peeled and deveined (P&D) to EZ-peel to tail-on, and more.

All of these possibilities show just how versatile shrimp is. And don’t overlook its popularity. Nation’s Restaurant News reports people in North America consume five pounds of shrimp per person each year. That is the most anywhere on earth outside of China. Because the cost of shrimp is relatively stable compared to other seafood, sales are expected to double in the next 10 years.

Finding the Right Shrimp

Shrimp are very capable players to have on your menu. It’s possible to use the same shrimp product in your shrimp cocktail appetizer, as the crispy star of a shared plate, or even chopped into a salad.

Using the same shrimp in multiple recipes or multiple parts of the menu simplifies ordering, inventory and storage. This results in cost savings, time savings and reduced waste. … No more tossing out a half-used bag of that one product used in a single recipe.

In addition, all parts of the shrimp are useful. The meaty body is the delicious star attraction, of course. But the shells and tails are great to reserve and boil into a seafood stock, according to Gordon Food Service Culinary Specialist Derek Seigfried.

“I think of shrimp as a blank canvas ingredient, because it is relatively neutral and adaptable,” the Connecticut-based chef said. “When it comes to versatility of a product at a good cost for the operator, there’s few things that compare to shrimp in the seafood world.”

Taking Advantage of Versatility

Seigfried shared several ideas for bringing shrimp onto the menu, as well as a number of kitchen-tested recipes that can be adapted for a restaurant kitchen.

He speaks about the versatility of shrimp. A larger shrimp can be very dramatic, making it the main focal point of the dish. A smaller shrimp can be more of a protein enhancement to a dish, such as skewers, pastas or salads. Very tiny shrimp and even dried shrimp can be mixed into an XO sauce and used as a condiment.

Larger shrimp come at a higher price point, Seigfried notes, so it’s wise to consider presentation when choosing the right shrimp for the menu. As for an all-purpose, workhorse shrimp, the 16-count and higher are a solid bet. They are large enough to be the star of a dish or fit into other menu applications. 

“Shrimp cocktail is a classic that some people might consider dated, but there’s very little time or labor and a lot of profit in selling a poached shrimp and a little bit of sauce,” he said. “The same shrimp can work as a crispy fried appetizer or go into an Asian dish or a po’ boy sandwich.” 

The breakfast menu also can take advantage of shrimp, with options such as frittatas, eggs Benedicts, omelets or even hash. 

Bring Shrimp to the Table

Seafood dishes are a big reason people visit restaurants, according to Datassential researchers. Shrimp are a big part of the attraction, and the options are vast. Chef Seigfried has crafted four recipes that demonstrate shrimp’s ability to work well with many types of foods and seasonings.

  1. Argentine Red Shrimp Toast: This dish is a fresh take on avocado toast, and because every ingredient can be prepped ahead, Seigfried said it’s easy to assemble and get to the table. “The Argentine red shrimp have a real nice sweetness to them, so they are great for this application and lots of others.”
  1. Fried Shrimp with Crispy Gnocchi: A little sweetness, a little spice, and a whole lot of crispy crunch from the deep-fried gnocchi and breaded shrimp. “Those same shrimp could be used for tacos at lunch, or the entire dish could be turned into an Asian soup with the gnocchi acting as dumplings,” Seigfried said. “It’s all about how well you use your imagination.”
  1. Poached Shrimp with Green Curry and Kosho: Here is a simple appetizer with lots of flavor. Poached shrimp sit in a green curry broth with apple-yuzu kosho, puffed rice and a touch of cilantro. “I originally made this dish with a scallop,” Seigfried said. “This is another recipe where everything can be made in advance, so it’s just a matter of plating it.”
  1. Pork Rind Crusted Shrimp: This recipe works as a gluten-free option by calling on corn flour and crumbled pork rinds as a breading. The butterflied shrimp are deep-fried and then placed around a dollop of avocado puree and a spoonful of nutty/spicy salsa macha. Seigfried notes that it’s another time-saving, make-ahead creation: “You can add the crust to the shrimp, freeze them laid out on sheet trays, then bag them until dropped into the fryer.” 

Get the Most Out of Your Order

These creative, versatile and time-saving recipes are just some of the many ways shrimp works on the restaurant menu. Your Gordon Food Service Sales Representative can help you choose the right shrimp for your needs and suggest other recipes and applications to cross-utilize shrimp in your operation. 

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