By: Sarah Ashley
I close my eyes and picture sparkling, turquoise waters lackadaisically lapping against a white, sandy beach. Bright blue sky extends for miles and the hot sun envelops me. Imagining I’m sitting in a simple, fold-out beach chair, I dig my toes into the sand and take a sip from a cool Pina Colada. I create a giant beach feast in my fantasy – vibrant fruits! Exotic spices! Fresh seafood! Ah yes, of course. It is not a tropical island vacation without tons of delicious, freshly caught sea critters.
Then I open my eyes to a bleak and bare Chicago afternoon. In February. I become depressed.
Fortunately, there is an easy way to beat the wintertime blues! If you can’t take a spring break vacation, you can certainly create the beach feast of your dreams! How?
I’ve chosen SeaPak Shrimp & Seafood Co., but there are numerous brands on the market that make a terrific popcorn shrimp. No matter the brand, there is something profound about the way the crisp, breaded exterior compliments the buttery, briny shrimp. It reminds me of oceanside cookouts and orange sunsets.
1 box Popcorn Shrimp
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Open the box with care. There is usually a perforated side that makes it easy – because who wants to work on a vacation?!
You’ll need a cooking tray. A trick I learned from my father, a master chef when it comes to seafood, is to place Aluminum Foil on the tray. You’ll save time on clean-up and the popcorn shrimp won’t stick. Smart as a dolphin!
Place as many popcorn shrimp on the tray as you please. Truth be told, I got so wrapped up in my deserted island dreamland that I ended up making a second batch, right after the first! So take note of your mental state and ask yourself: How many popcorn shrimp do I really need to convince myself that I am in Fiji?
Pop (!) the tray into the oven for 10-11 minutes. I prefer the full 11 minutes because, as I said, that crispy exterior really punches up the flavor of the smooth shrimp inside. But, this is your spring break. Go wild!
When you hop out of the salty ocean, if the sun is hot enough it completely dries your body by the time you have pranced to your beach chair. So it goes with popcorn shrimp. Let them cool momentarily, but be quick dishing them up.
Nothing beats a hot, crunchy piece of popcorn shrimp! Except a real vacation on a remote beach, where knit hammocks hang between palm trees and the air smells like coconut.
For now, though, there’s this.