We both grew up in Baltimore in families that loved the water. Both the Chesapeake Bay and Ocean City were major parts of our childhoods, so when Gretchyn’s birthday rolled around this year, she asked that we do something which evoked home. We we decided to do a shrimp feast that evoked how we spent summers—complete with steamed shrimp, grilled corn on the cob, fresh tomatoes, and our hometown favorite, Utz potato chips.
Steaming the shrimp was easy. We normally figure 2/3 of a pound per person. With all the sides, that would be more than enough. An ear and a third of corn per person and about a third of a tomato each rounds out the math. We were having 12 folks over, so that came out to 8 pounds of shrimp (21-25 count), 16 ears of corn, and 4 tomatoes. We can’t get Utz down here in Florida, so we ordered them directly from the company: regular and crab flavor.
STEAMED SHRIMP, MARYLAND STYLE (serves 12)
8 lbs. shrimp
3 large red onions
4 cups water
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup J.O. ’s crab seasoning
1 cup Old Bay
For steaming (although not for roasting) shrimp, we like the blend of J.O.’s and Old Bay. J.O.’s is saltier, which is fine for the more aggressive flavor we want out of steaming it, but too much for the more delicate flavor of roasting.
I layered the shrimp, about 2 pounds at a time, in the steamer. On top of each layer, I put some of the red onions, which I had sliced moderately thickly. Each layer got a quarter of the blended seasonings, and we were ready to cook. On the grill’s power burner, it took only about 8 minutes to get the shrimp perfectly done once the water was boiling. When they were ready, we just dumped them on the (heavy paper-covered) table.
The corn took about 20 minutes on a medium hot grill, turning three times to get them evenly done. I melted two sticks of butter in a little pot and put that on the table as well, with a little silicone brush for ease of spreading. We sliced the tomatoes and put out oil, balsamic, and mayo so folks could choose how they dressed them and we were ready to go.
Pairing wine with spicy food is often tricky. I think my favorite pairing with Maryland style steamed shrimp is a juicy Australian Shiraz. There are no real tannins to fight with the shrimp and the sweetness of the fruit makes a nice contrast to the spiciness. That said, we didn’t really care about the perfect pairing here, we just drank what we wanted. We had beer and soft drinks available, but for wine, we started with Champagne (Veuve Clicquot) as folks were arriving and then opened bottles sort of opportunistically.
The first opportunity was when our friend Dave showed up with the Backpack of Infinite Bottles. From his stash, we got rolling with two Chards, 2009 Domain Henri Darnat Puligny-Montrachet, a delicious banana-scented Burgundy, and the crisp, clean 2009 Peay Vineyards Chardonnay Estate. The whites out of the way, we went for another Burgundy, this time red, in 2008 Château de Puligny-Montrachet Nuits St. Georges 1er Cru Clos des Grand Vignes, followed by another Pinot, 2010 A.P. Vin Pinot Noir Ridgetop Vineyard. We then added 2010 Stone Mountain Vineyards Cabernet Napa Valley as we were finishing up the shrimp.
Dave’s offerings duly sacrificed, before starting to play our now-traditional game of Catch Phrase with this crowd, Dave and I went into the cellar to figure out what to grab. I had wanted to crack the first of our 2003 Lynch-Bages, but at this point in the day figured that we might want to save that for another time. We both had a taste for Bordeaux nonetheless, so I opened a 2002 Chateau Palmer. It was a nice epilogue to the main course.
About an hour later, dessert came out. Usually, we would make our own, but for this, Gretchyn really wanted the kind of thing we had growing up. Since there are no local Carvel stores, she ended up ordering an ice cream cake from Cold Stone. It was surprisingly good. Because it was heavy with chocolate, we pulled out a 2010 Hartford Old Vines Zinfandel, which also happened have been a gift from Kathryn and David, two of the other friends celebrating with us. Zin and chocolate is such as great pairing and we use it often enough that it’s becoming a standard around here. There is enough tannin in Zin and enough fat in chocolate to make a great contrast.
Not satisfied that we had talked about that 03 Lynch-Bages but not opened it, Dave and I agreed for the betterment of all mankind that we go back and get it. Fortunately for mankind, it was delicious, the winner of the night. 2003 might have been uneven in Bordeaux, but this stuff was great—not the once-in-a-lifetime 1989 or the spectacular 2000, but great nonetheless. I’m happy that there’s the rest of a case left.
Coffee and more Catch Phrase finished out the evening. The day was the perfect birthday celebration of great friends, great food, and great wine, which is the greatest gift we could ask for.