There’s a lot of buzz about bees these days, and one of the hottest questions is whether we need tougher rules for pesticide use in agriculture. Does the issue ultimately boil down to bees vs. farmers? Unearthed columnist Tamar Haspel takes a closer look.
Also in Food this week, Emily Horton swims against the crisp-tender tide by cooking summer vegetables the way her grandmother did: until they’re falling-apart soft and intensely flavorful. Jane Black reviews “Victuals,” Ronni Lundy’s latest book, a love letter to the food and people of the Appalachian region. And Smoke Signals columnist Jim Shahin explores the roots of barbecue with a Fredericksburg man who is convinced the practice was born in Virginia.
Good news: Tamar, Ronni and Jim are on the guest list for today’s Free Range chat. As usual, it starts at noon sharp and, as usual, we expect a fun and lively hour. So pour yourself something cold — it’s hot out there — and settle in for a spell.
Need a little something to get you started? Here’s a leftover question from last week’s chat.
I’ve dealt with it in restaurants, but I would never cook shrimp for myself with the tail shell still on. It is really annoying to have 20 percent of the shrimp meat stuck inside (and not in contact with any sauce or other flavors). Is there a reason for doing this, other than having little pink handles?
Come sit right here by me: You’re a soulmate. I have been ranting about this for years. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s one-fifth of the shrimp, but it’s an extra bite that you have to struggle for. So what’s the point?
If you ask seafood expert Fiona Lewis — and I did — she’ll say there doesn’t seem to be a point.
“I have absolutely no idea why it’s done,” she says. And she should know. Lewis is co-owner of the District Fishwife, a seafood shop and eatery in Union Market, and is a restaurant industry veteran here and in her native Australia.
She does allow some slack where it makes good sense. “With cocktail shrimp, it’s nice to have a little handle,” she says. “For cooked shrimp that might be served on a platter, where people would reach in and help themselves, I’m in the tail-on camp.”
For plated shrimp with pasta, or in sauce? When the tails are left on, “I can’t get any more annoyed. It’s horrible,” she said.
If you ask the Internet — and I did — you’ll find lots of people defending or at least trying to explain the practice. Some of them are chefs. They say: Leaving the tails on makes the food more attractive; it adds flavor to the dish; it makes the shrimp look larger; it’s easier for the restaurant; it’s a crunchy and tasty addition. I don’t care. I don’t want to have to dig that last morsel of shrimp out of a slippery shell on a plate full of sauce or butter.
If you cook, of course, you can do it your way. As Lewis says, there are instances where it makes sense to leave the tail as a handle, especially when you’ll be dipping into a sauce. Here are some recipes from our Recipe Finder that will make both camps happy.
Keep the tails on for these:
Take the tails off for these: