On the Gulf Coast, we LOVE our seafood. And we’re so lucky that the bounty includes the tender, sweet and buttery taste of the Gulf you get from fresh Gulf shrimp.

A dining experience that includes fresh Gulf shrimp is a treat few are able to enjoy back home. But when you come to the beach for vacation, fresh shrimp are available in abundance for much of the year, making the delicacy a must-have while you’re here.

Shopping For Shrimp & Other Ingredients

There are many ways to prepare shrimp, but first, you have to purchase the appropriate quantity. Local seafood markets feature a variety of fish and shrimp to choose from.

Buy fresh shrimpSome of our favorite specialty seafood markets include Blalock Seafood & Specialty Seafood Market, with locations in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach; Billy’s Seafood Open Air Market in nearby Bon Secour; Gulf Shores Seafood; and Perdido Bay Seafood in Perdido Key. (Fresh Seafood Markets)

At our local seafood specialty markets, you’ll find various types of shrimp are in season during certain times of the year; white, pink and royal reds, sold with heads on, may be in season at any given time.

You can also find a selection of fresh and/or frozen seafood at our local supermarkets such as Rouses Market in Gulf Shores and Publix in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, and Perdido Key.

Royal redsAccording to Alabama Gulf Seafood’s website, “royal red shrimp can be easily substituted for brown shrimp in any standard recipe. However, because they make their home in deeper waters than other Alabama shrimps, royal reds have a natural saltiness to their taste, so there’s no need to add a lot of extra salt to your other ingredients. Make sure you’re careful about overcooking when dealing with royal reds; these shrimp are naturally a pinkish color even when raw, and it only takes half the time to cook them compared to pinks, whites or browns.”

Shrimp are sold by count per pound in the United States, with sizes ranging from extra small to extra colossal. Typically at a seafood market, you will find small, medium, large and jumbo as well as the royal reds.

When considering how much shrimp to purchase, it is important to know how it will be served and with what other foods, if any.

Steamed shrimpIf shrimp will be served as an appetizer, allow two to three medium or larger shrimp per person, and more if there are no other appetizers on the menu.

A good rule of thumb to prepare a half pound to a full pound per person if shrimp is being served as an entrée along with other dishes. Some people who love shrimp could eat more, while some may eat none. It usually works out just fine.

While spices are likely available for purchase at the local seafood markets, vegetables and other ingredients can be found at local supermarkets such as Walmart, Publix, and Winn-Dixie, with locations in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and Perdido Key, and Rouses Market, located in Gulf Shores.

Peeling & Deveining Your Shrimp

Many of the local seafood markets will actually steam your shrimp and sides to go along with it (potatoes, corn, sausage, bread, etc.). However, if you want to take it back to your Gulf Shores or Orange Beach vacation rental to prepare yourself, they will bag your shrimp Deveined shrimpand ice it down to stay cold until you can get back to your beach condo or house.

Many recipes call for shrimp to be deveined and peeled (either with tails on or off), a time-consuming but simple task.

The “vein” of the shrimp is not really a vein at all. Rather, it is a digestive tract that runs along the back of the shrimp just beneath the surface. It looks like a thin string filled with dark grit that is sometimes barely noticeable or can be very prominent.

The “vein” is not harmful if eaten, but it can add a little grit to your bite.

Step 1: Pull off the legs.
Step 2: Break open the shell along the underside and peel off.
Step 3: Pinch off the tail where it meets the body of the shrimp and gently pull the shrimp away from the shell.

Step 1: Score the shrimp along its back with a paring knife.
Step 2: Look for the vein, if there is one present.
Step 3: Pull out the vein with your paring knife.

Cooked shrimp

Cooking Your Shrimp

As Private Benjamin Buford “Bubba” Blue, Forrest Gump’s “best good friend,” said, there are many ways to enjoy shrimp:

“Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it. Dey's, uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan-fried, deep-fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That…that's about it.”

Here are some of our favorite ideas for enjoying the local bounty right from your vacation rental.

Prepare A Feast Fit For A King

One of our favorite ways to prepare shrimp here on the Gulf Coast is a Low Country Boil in a stockpot, which is one of the many items furnished in your vacation rental’s fully equipped kitchen.

It’s a simple meal with lots of flavor, textures and crowd-pleasing variety. This recipe, courtesy of coastalliving.com, serves 8-12.

Low Country Boil
4 pounds small red potatoes (we prefer A size)
5 quarts water
1 (3-ounce) bag of crab boil seasoning (Zatarain’s is easy to find and a locals’ favorite)
4 tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning OR Zatarain’s Crawfish, Shrimp & Crab Boil
2 pounds kielbasa or smoked link sausage, cut into 1.5-inch pieces
6 ears of corn, halved
4 pounds large fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined optional

Cocktail Sauce

½ cup ketchup
2 tbsp. horseradish (more or less to taste)
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Stir all ingredients together until well mixed. Serve with cooked shrimp.

Add potatoes to large pot, then add 5 quarters water and seasonings. Cover pot and heat to a rolling boil; cook 5 minutes. Add sausage and corn and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and float to the top of the water. Drain. Serve warm or cold with cocktail sauce.

NOTE: I’ve known some folks to toss vegetables, such as whole Brussels sprouts, whole peeled onions, entire bulbs of garlic (the cloves get soft when boiled and can be squeezed out of their hulls), carrots and more, into the seasoned water with the other vegetables.

To serve your low country boil, there’s no need to get fancy. Things are going to get messy, so be sure to put out plenty of paper towels, along with a little extra seasoning, lemon wedges, and cocktail sauce for this fun family meal. An outdoor picnic table is an ideal spot to lay out the feast onto newspapers.

Enjoy A Tropical Twist

Coconut shrimp is a favorite for those who enjoy their shrimp with a bit of a sweet and savory tropical flare. The following recipe is courtesy of Kate Burke of VisitSouth.com and originally appeared on the Alabama Gulf Seafood website at eatalabamaseafood.com.

Coconut Shrimp With Pineapple Salsa

Coconut Shrimp
1 lb. large raw Gulf shrimp, tails on and deveined
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 large egg
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. black pepper

Pineapple Salsa
1 cup fresh pineapple, chopped
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp. sugar
1-3 tbsp. jalapeño pepper, finely chopped, minced and seeded
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper
Juice of 1 lime

Preheat oven to 425°. Spray a non-stick baking sheet with cooking spray.

Set up an “assembly line” of three bowls. Put the flour in the first bowl. In the second, combine coconut flakes and breadcrumbs. Whisk egg and water in the third bowl.

Season shrimp with the salt and pepper. Dip the shrimp in the flour, shaking off excess, then into the egg, then in the coconut crumb mixture. Continue this process until all shrimp are coated.

Place each shrimp onto the cookie sheet then spray the top of the shrimp with more cooking spray. Bake for about 10 minutes, then turn over the shrimp and cook another 7 minutes or until cooked through. Remove from oven and serve with salsa.

For the salsa, combine all ingredients and serve cold or at room temperature.

Pair It With Grits

A favorite on many seafood restaurant menus on the Gulf Coast is shrimp and grits. In the recipe below, provided courtesy of Carl Tilley, chef at the Kitchen on George, and originally appearing on Alabama Gulf Seafood’s website at www.eatalabamaseafood.com, we see a dish prepared with a Creole twist.

Blackened Alabama Gulf Shrimp & Grits With Creole Cream

2 qt. half and half
1 cup coarse ground white grits or polenta
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
10½ oz. soft goat cheese (Belle Chèvre preferred)
To taste salt and pepper
10 each 16/20 or 21/25 Alabama Gulf shrimp, peeled and deveined
9 oz. Zatarain's Blackened Seasoning
2 oz. celery, finely chopped
2 oz. red and green bell peppers, brunoise
4 oz. yellow onion, diced small
1 clove garlic, minced
1 scallion (green portion), finely sliced
½ oz. parsley, finely chopped
1/3 qt. heavy cream
2 oz. Worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp. butter, cubed
1 tbsp. Zatarain's Creole Seasoning
6 oz. canola oil

Place half and half and salt and pepper in the sauce pot and warm over medium-high heat. Do not let the half and half come to a boil. When half and half is hot, add grits stirring continuously. As the grits cook, the mixture will thicken slightly. When grits are fully cooked, lower heat to lowest setting and stir in the Parmesan cheese. Once the cheese is incorporated stir in the goat cheese. Stir until smooth.

In a warm sauté pan, add 4 oz. oil. Coat shrimp to desired consistency with Zatarain’s Blackened Seasoning. Carefully place them in the sauté pan. Cook on each side approximately 2 minutes. Turn heat off and reserve the shrimp.

In a warm sauté pan, add 2 oz. oil. When the oil is hot add the celery, peppers, onion, and garlic. Sauté for about 1-2 minutes making sure not to burn the vegetables. Add heavy cream, Worcestershire, and Zatarain’s Creole seasoning. Stir gently to incorporate all the ingredients evenly. As the cream reduces the mixture will thicken. Add butter and stir as it melts. Remove from heat.

Spoon grits into the bowl. Ladle sauce onto grits. Place shrimp on top and garnish with scallion slices.

Fire Up The Grill
Many Meyer Vacation Rentals-managed properties have grills, whether outdoors at beach houses or in common areas at condos. This means that the smoky taste of grilled shrimp dishes is just steps away.

This recipe incorporates the use of the crown jewel of the Gulf, the regal Royal Red shrimp. It serves four, so multiply the recipe ingredients according to your group size.

Grilled Royal Red Shrimp Kabobs

¼ cup chopped parsley
½ tsp. freshly ground pepper
1½ lbs. Royal Red shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ tsp. salt
1 large yellow bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 large onion, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 container grape tomatoes
2 garlic cloves
1½ tbsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tbsp. olive oil

Soak wooden skewers in water for 30 minutes. Mix the parsley, olive oil, lemon juice and garlic in a small bowl. Thread the tomatoes, onion, bell pepper and shrimp alternately on the wooden skewers and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brush with the olive oil mixture and arrange on a platter. Chill, covered, for up to 2 hours.

Preheat the grill. Arrange the skewers on the grill rack and grill for 2 minutes per side or until the shrimp turn pink and are no longer translucent, turning occasionally.

Take Some Home For Later

But be sure to stop by one of the seafood markets on your way home so they can pack some in a cooler for you. Keep your seafood on ice and prepare when you return home or freeze your shrimp.

Properly stored, shrimp will maintain the best quality for about three to six months but will remain safe beyond that time. The freezer time shown is for best quality only - shrimp that has been kept constantly frozen at 0°F will keep safe indefinitely.

Fill Up On Your Favorites At The Beach

Enjoy all the shrimp and other delicious fresh seafood you can eat when you rent a beach house or condo during your vacation in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan, Orange Beach or Perdido Key.