Yesterday we were doing a canape of shrimp. We had some beautiful blue shrimp and as Aki was cleaning then she asked if we should save the heads. I have not been one to save shrimp heads recently. Sure, we could make stock or oil, dry the heads and make powder or pulverize them with some butter to use as a liaison for a sauce. Perhaps I have been feeling lazy. And sure enough when she asked I shrugged and said no, don't bother. While these words were still clinging to my lips and her ears I had a gut check. Wait I cried. I remembered an incredible approach to shrimp heads that I witnessed and also ate at a Japanese restaurant before we came out west. The shrimp was served first. In fact, I do not remember the preparation of the shrimp itself. I was mesmerized by the sushi chef's approach to the head. He removed the outer carapaces and then trimmed off the eyes, the gills and the legs. He had a center cut shrimp head. He then proceeded to tempura the head and serve it with a light dipping sauce. Unbelievable. All these years of eating and trying shrimp heads and just not being that impressed. It was at this moment I realized that the stripping down and refinement of ingredients can and should be applied to all ingredients and aspects of cooking.
I filed the approach to shrimp heads and low and behold the file ended up on my desk yesterday. I grabbed the heads, cleaned them as per the sushi chef's technique. I then veered a bit off course. I decided a soak in buttermilk would be good for these heads. When the heads were done soaking I borrowed another idea from Aki's book. For the shrimp canape she decided to make a light corn flour coating for the shrimp. She placed the dry mix in a bag and then added the shrimp. She smiled as she exclaimed "Shake and Bake baby." The shrimp were perfectly coated and seasoned. Instead of baking the shrimp, she sauteed them, though it is shakeable seasoning approach that I grabbed. I did the same thing for the heads with a corn flour and chermoula seasoning. I then sauteed them.
Man are shrimp heads good. They were bursting with flavor, crispy on the outside a whole lot of seafood on the inside. Glad I decided not to throw these shrimp shells in the trash. And what did we end up doing with these heads? Well, besides eating them like popcorn we started work on a true and false, hot and cold, oyster and shrimp dish.