Shrimp is delectable grilled both in and out of the shell-leaving the shell on keeps the meat moist and flavorful-but sooner or later that shell has got to come off, as does, at least in the larger shrimp we use for grilling, the black intestinal vein that runs down the back.
Cookware shops and fish markets sell a simple device that makes peeling and deveining raw shrimp a snap. The shrimp peeler looks like a red plastic knife with a long, slender, arched, flexible tip. To use it, hold an unpeeled shrimp as straight as possible in one hand. Insert the slender end of the peeler into the vein at the head end of the shrimp with your other hand and push. The wedge-shaped blade of the peeler will cut cleanly through the shell and remove the vein. If you want to remove the shell now, it will be a simple matter of pulling the shrimp free of it, through the open back.
To peel a raw shrimp by hand: Pull off the legs, which will open up the shell on the underside. Loosen the shrimp from the shell with your fingers, then pull it free. The shell may break as you work, since it tends to cling to the flesh of the shrimp if so, make sure you find and remove any stray pieces. The only part of the shell you might want to leave on, for aesthetic reasons, is the feathery tail.
To devein an unpeeled shrimp by hand: Make a lengthwise cut along the back of the shell, using kitchen scissors. Scrape out the exposed vein with the tine of a fork or the tip of a paring knife.
To devein a peeled shrimp by hand: The classic way is to cut a V-shaped groove down the back of the shrimp the groove should be just deep enough to include the vein. Remove the wedge of flesh and the vein will come with it.
There’s a lightning-quick method for deveining a peeled shrimp, one taught to me by a Louisianan. Insert the tine of a fork in the back of the shrimp, midway between the head and tail. Pull the fork gently away from the shrimp and the vein will come with it.
To butterfly a shrimp: Carry the vein-removing procedure described in either of the two methods above a step further. Once the vein is removed, make a deeper cut in the flesh, almost but not quite entirely through it, lengthwise almost to the tail.
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