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Savor the joys of shrimp, crawfish

If you're a lover of shellfish, you're sure to enjoy a mound of chilled shrimp or a platter of crimson crawfish. Prized for their sweet meat, shrimp are the most popular shellfish and come in many varieties.

Buying shrimp: Shrimp are available raw or cooked, fresh or frozen, shelled or in the shell. Raw shrimp in the shell are called green shrimp, although the shell may actually be shades of white, gray, brown, or pink. Peeled and deveined shrimp have had both the shells and sand veins removed.

You'll usually see only shrimp tail sections in your market. Shrimp are sold by size or count per pound. The larger the shrimp, the more they cost.

To calculate how much shrimp to buy, figure on 3 to 4 ounces of shelled shrimp per person. For some recipes, you can substitute canned shelled shrimp, which come in varying sizes. If you buy shrimp in shells, remember that 12 ounces of raw shrimp in the shell is equal to 8 ounces of shelled raw shrimp, one 4{-ounce can of shrimp or 1 cup of shelled cooked shrimp.

Storing fresh shrimp: Rinse the shrimp under cold running water, then drain. Cover and keep them chilled in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Peeling shrimp: For fresh or cooked shrimp, loosen the shell by running your fingers along the underside from head to tail. Gently pull on the tail portion of the shell and remove it. To devein the shrimp, make a shallow slit along its back from head to tail, using a sharp knife. Remove the black sand vein that runs along the center of the back.

Cooking shrimp: In a 3-quart saucepan bring 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt to boiling. Add 1 pound fresh or frozen shelled or unshelled shrimp.

Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 1 to 3 minutes or until shrimp turn pink, stirring occasionally. Rinse under cold running water.

Drain and chill. Serve with cocktail sauce or use in a recipe as cooked shrimp.

Crawfish are freshwater crustaceans that look like miniature lobsters. Also known as crayfish, crawdads, creekcrabs and yabbies, their meat is similar in texture but sweeter than that of shrimp.

Buying crawfish: Crawfish are sold live, cooked in the shell or cooked and frozen in the shell.

For each serving, allow about 1 pound of live crawfish. This yields 3 to 4 ounces of cooked tail meat.

Storing crawfish: Cook live as soon as possible. To temporarily store them, rinse them under cold running water, then place them on top of wet newspapers in an insulated cooler that is half-filled with ice. Cook within one day.

Cooking crawfish: Rinse 4 pounds live crawfish under cold running water. In a 12-quart to 16-quart kettle combine 8 quarts cold water and cup salt; add crawfish. Soak for 15 minutes; rinse. Drain.

In the same kettle bring 8 quarts water and 2 teaspoons salt to boiling. Add crawfish.

Return to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, about 5 minutes or until shells are a bright reddish orange.

Drain. Serve hot with cocktail sauce or melted butter.

Peeling crawfish: Pick up the crawfish and gently twist the tail away from the body. Unwrap the first two or three sections of the shell on the tail, then pinch the end of the tail while pulling out the meat. Remove the black sand vein, if desired.