Contributor: Caroline Coker
Since I love fresh shrimp, whether seasonal royal reds, brown, white, or on occasion rock, and I was passing by Maria’s seafood in Pensacola today, like a moth to a flame I was sucked in to purchase the crustaceans. With it being royal red season (the very deep water, salty shrimp caught miles out in the Gulf that taste like lobster) they were on my radar. Sadly, Maria’s was out, but they did have some fresh, just caught, right off the boat, Pensacola Bay hoppers. Heads on and 3 1/2 pounds later, they were in our Pensacola kitchen getting peeled and deveined. Being a cooking family, we always have lemons, limes, cilantro and garlic pods on hand, so I thought putting those flavors together and baking them would be far healthier than my stepfather’s favorite New Orleans BBQ Shrimp recipe that is made with loads of butter.
I was right. The zest of lime, freshness of the juice, hint of cumin, and crunch of plain panko (also on hand in our pantry), made for an a quick, yet perfectly delicious and light dinner.
According to FreshFromFlorida.com, shrimp are the most consumed seafood in the United States, and with all of their amazing health benefits and sustainability, they are now considered a super food. Shrimp are an incredible contribution to a healthy diet, if not allergic like my aunt, and they offer over 47% of our daily nutritional value of protein in one 4 ounce serving! They are low in calories, give us 1/4 of our daily needed Vitamin B12, a nutrient vital to the wellbeing of the body’s nerve and blood cells, and give us 15% of our much needed essential Omega 3 Fatty Acids, which promote cardiovascular and nervous system health. Most recently, shrimp have gained recognition for their high levels of the cancer preventative carotenoid Astaxanthin that acts as a powerful anti-oxidant, protecting neurons and potentially slowing the effects of age-related cognitive decline. By suppressing the release of inflammatory messaging molecules, Astaxanthin also promotes muscle recovery, strength, and endurance. This boosts your body’s immunity, reducing health risks and helping prevent heart disease. So, eat up!
Baked Pensacola Bay Hopper’s with Cilantro & Lime
3 to 3.5 pounds head on raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (comes to about 2 pounds)
2-3 tablespoons good olive oil (examples: Georgia Olive Farms, Mac Farms, California Olive Ranch)
4 cloves garlic, smashed and finely chopped
1 lime zest of, and the juice of
1/4 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
1/2 cup plain panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup loose fresh cilantro, chop (1/2 for dish and top 1/2 before serving)
lime slices for serving
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
In a greased medium baking (11×7 rectangular or 8×8 square) dish, add shrimp that has been patted dry with paper towels, then add garlic, lime zest, lime juice, cumin, half of the cilantro, salt, pepper, and then toss ingredients coating the mixture.
In a separate small bowl, stir together the olive oil and panko bread crumbs. lightly sprinkle on the mixture coating the top of the shrimp evenly.
Bake on the middle rack for 15 minutes, or until the shrimp are pink and no longer opaque. If using larger Gulf shrimp like a 16/20 count, you may want to bake 18 minutes. Remove the dish from the oven and garnish with extra lime wedges and other 1/2 of the remaining cilantro.
Contributor Caroline Coker was raised on 30A, and has been living in South Walton, Florida since the age of five. She is passionate about health and fitness, and graduated in Nutritional Science from The University of Alabama. You will find more of her work here at 30AEats.com on Beach Eats, recipes that she is working on for her first cookbook. Caroline also handles the social media for GulfCoastRestaurants.com.