When I recapped the 2020 World Shrimpburger Competition, there was a voice of dissent. No less than John Shelton Reed, author of Holy Smoke: The Big Book of North Carolina Barbecue, and co-founder of the Campaign for Real Barbecue, offered up the Shrimp Shack on St. Helena Island, South Carolina. In a comment, reader Ron Garner pointed me to a NY Times article touting the Shrimp Shack. That led me to further research.
While the 2020 World Competition was based on whole fried popcorn shrimp piled on a bun, the Shrimp Shack shrimpburger is a party of ground shrimp that is fried and placed on a bun. It’s a completely different dish.
You may not see the difference as crucial, but then you also probably can’t appreciate how a smidgen of ketchup in a barbecue sauce can divide a state into warring factions. I’ve already started planning a trip to try the Shrimp Shack shrimpburger, and perhaps others of that model, but I’m not putting the two styles against each other, any more than I would compare pork to brisket. They aren’t the same, and I’m a peace-loving man.
But the varieties of shrimpburgers do not end there. My son-in-law, Master Chef Michael Boyd, introduced me without fanfare to his grilled shrimpburger: chopped raw shrimp molded into a patty and cooked on the grill.
Here’s how you make them:
Roughly chop up some raw peeled and deveined shrimp together with some spring onions, salt, and pepper, and, if you are on the Chesapeake Bay, some Old Bay seasoning. If you are away from the Bay, you might add some Zatarain’s or perhaps some Lea and Perrins, or some soy sauce if you want to give it an Asian accent. Form the shrimp into patties, and put them on the grill. (Note: Michael didn’t measure anything, so you, too, should season to taste.) After you flip them, why not add a thick slice of good feta cheese? And some sautéed spinach? Toast the buns and assemble.
They were really good. Really good. The grill gives a great surface caramelization, and that touch of smoke from the grill … and the spinach and feta … great. You really should try your own take on grilled shrimpburgers, and let me know your favorite seasoning combinations.
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