Shrimp are probably the most popular shellfish in America. People who don't touch any other form of seafood will devour shrimp. They're delicious, it's true, but part of the reason they're so popular is that they're so consistently available - and so familiar. Virtually no matter where you go, you can find shrimp on the menu. (Shrimp inhabit all the oceans of the world.) But the majority of shrimp you find at restaurants and at the markets are not ocean shrimp. They're most likely farm-raised in freshwater ponds in countries such as Thailand, which is now the leading producer of farm-raised shrimp. Many of the tiger shrimp served in America originate there. Farmed shrimp are uniform in size, consistent in quality and flavor, and are available year-round.

Shrimp are graded by the average number of shrimp per pound. The larger the shrimp, the higher the price. The most expensive shrimp are "jumbo," no more than ten per pound. Average-sized shrimp are about fifteen to twenty per pound, and smaller shrimp, twenty-one to twenty-five. Shrimp continue to be graded in size as they get smaller, but most retail shops don't stock the smaller-sized shrimp, often sold to restaurants as "popcorn" shrimp.

Shrimp are extremely versatile. Most Americans' favorite shrimp dish is still the shrimp cocktail, although shrimp is served every which way - steamed, broiled, fried, sautéed, in pasta dishes, and with rice. The simple shrimp dish we developed years ago, the Jasmine Special, is one of our most requested recipes.

From the "Legal Sea Foods Cookbook" by Roger Berkowitz and Jane Doerfer, illustrated by Edward Koren

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