What's in Season

The King of Shrimp

Ultrasweet Gulf Coast Royal Reds are worth shelling out for

photo: John Burgoyne

While working in the kitchen with the legendary Louisi-
ana chef Donald Link, Bill Briand constantly catalogued culinary wisdom, from mastering a roux to butchering whole animals. Over a span of eight years, Briand, who grew up in New Orleans, often heard Link gush about Royal Red shrimp, then a treat rarely seen outside of coastal Alabama. So when Briand moved to the Yellowhammer State in 2013 to open Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina, he ordered a pound of the deepwater delicacies from local shrimpers. “It was love at first bite,” he says. “They’re deliciously sweet and tender. I affectionately call them baby lobster tails.” Caught up to sixty miles off the coast, twelve hundred to eighteen hundred
feet down, the shrimp are a ruby-red color (some might say “crimson,” unless they’re Auburn fans) and come into season in late summer, peaking in September. Because they are caught so far offshore and shrimpers stay out for thirty days to maximize their haul, the Royals are flash frozen on the boat to preserve freshness (these shrimp are one of the few seafood items you do not want to buy unless they’re frozen, according to Briand). Although only a handful of boats catch Royal Reds along the Gulf Coast, the rest of the South doesn’t have to miss out—you can order a pound or two online at aquilaseafood.net, Briand’s go-to resource. When cooking them at home, don’t salt your water—they have plenty of natural salinity. They’re great boiled, steamed, or sautéed, but be mindful not to overcook them; they require about half the cook time of brown or white shrimp (pull them as soon as the shells turn white). Beyond that, you need to do very little to make these crustaceans the crown jewels of any meal.

The Chef Recommends: Alabama Royal Red Rolls

“When I was a kid, my parents made me pick all of the leftover lobster for rolls the next day. This is a fun Alabama spin on the classic lobster roll.” —Bill Briand, Fisher’s at Orange Beach Marina, Alabama

John Burgoyne

Boil 1 lb. whole Royal Red shrimp in water for 2–3 minutes. Cool, peel, devein, and chop each shrimp into 4 pieces. In a mixing bowl, whisk 1¼ cups mayonnaise, zest and juice of 2 lemons, 1 tbsp. minced jalapeño, 1½ tbsp. honey, 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar, 1 tsp. hot sauce, 1 tsp. salt, ½ tsp. pepper, and ½ tsp. cayenne. In another bowl, toss shrimp with 3 chopped leaves each mint, parsley, and celery and ¼ cup each diced celery and red onion. Fold in mayo mixture and chill. Toast 4–6 buttered hot dog buns, stuff with shrimp, and serve.