Living in Texas on the Gulf, seafood is something I cook I a fairly regular basis. In particular I typically make shrimp once a week. This is because my spouse won’t eat fish but WILL eat seafood. Gulf shrimp is readily available so I try to make it often for my family. Stir fry and grilled shrimp are dishes that are often featured in my house. Personally, I like etouffee a lot but it isn’t a favorite of my spouse. So I don’t usually make it. However, my parents are coming to visit Thanksgiving week and they LOVED the etouffee I made the last time they were here. So I’m planning on making it again. We key aspect of a good etouffee is fish or seafood stock. While one can buy fish stock at the store, making it from scratch especially from the seafood you’re going to be working with is even better.
Today, I happened to have some time after I cleaned the pound and a half of fresh gulf shrimp I had bought for one meal this week. So I figured I’d make and freeze some stock. You start out with all the shells from the shrimp you clean. If you’ve got heads then throw those in the pot too.
You want to add enough water to this to cover the shells plus a little extra. In my case I added 6 cups of water. I could’ve chosen to also add some seasoning as well such as bay leaf, or salt. I’m a big fan of the KISS principle though. While I intend to use this for etouffee, that might not happen and if it doesn’t I want the plainest stock to start with.
Once you’ve got the water in the pan, you want to bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes or so. Basically I like the shrimp shells to turn pink. When you’re doing this you need to be REALLY careful not to boil over the stock. If you do your house will smell like the sea until you clean it all up. I unfortunately was interrupted mid process by an angry toddler tantrum and had a boil over incident. So I had to clean my stove up pronto to not have fishy odor. When the stock is cooked you will want to run it through a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth to make sure all the shells are removed. You can actually put the shells in cheese cloth then stick them in the pan to boil. I’m too lazy for this. So I just use my fine mesh strainer. I ended up with slightly more than 1 quart (4 cups) of stock. Some made a mess and some I pitched because I only had a quart container for storage.
I put it in the fridge to chill and tomorrow I’ll put in my freezer. (Remember to label it if you’re freezing different kinds of stock!) You’ll notice I’m using the take out containers that soup from Chinese food places come in. I find this AWESOME for freezing stuff because they’re essential free and I can recycle them if they break or get too nasty. (I use them for freezing tomato sauce which stains plastic badly). I like the smaller size for pureed squash or pumpkin that I freeze or for storing tofu after I open it in the fridge. When I need the stock I’ll pull it out of the freezer and thaw it. Having stock on hand is faster than having to make some from shrimp I’ve just cleaned plus it gives me the option of making a chowder, stew or bisque during the winter.