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Vol. 17 No. 19 - February 22, 2017


Gulf shrimp is the star

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story


Shrimp ajillo is served with ciabatta and arugula.


Blue Marlin Seafood will only serve shrimp that have been caught in the Gulf of Mexico. We make a great effort to get the most coveted shrimp, the pink ones from Key West. Key West pink shrimp have always had the reputation for being the sweetest and cleanest of all the shrimp in the sea. Most of the time we have these tender crustaceans on our plates.

If the boat is late or fishing is slow, we search out the next best thing, which would be white Gulf shrimp from the northern Gulf of Mexico. There are many different species of shrimp that come from our local waters, so there are always plenty of options at the fish house.

If you have the chance to sample the Gulf rock shrimp, which are caught by a local boat from A.P. Bell, don't hesitate! These are going to remind you of the best lobster you ever had. Rock shrimp only come around a few times a year, so eat them up if you are lucky enough get your hands on a box. The boats at AP Bell also make runs to the Keys to harvest pink shrimp, so we even get to have fresh shrimp delivered to our docks.

If you spend some time and ask the right questions (like Sean Murphy said in the Feb. 1 edition of The Sun), you will have the fresh local bounty that is in our back yard. When you get back to the kitchen with your little local box of treasure, think about a simple way to compliment and enhance these gems of the sea.

It only takes a few ingredient to accomplish an exciting dish. The Spanish have always had the brilliance of using just a few really great ingredients in their dishes. Shrimp ajillo is at the top of this list of tasty creations. Garlic, lime, extra virgin olive oil, chili flakes, and, of course, those Key West pinks, are all you need.

Shrimp Ajillo


1/3 lb to 1/2 lb shrimp per person

2 or 10 cloves garlic, sliced

3 limes

Pinch of chili flakes

2 Tbs. per person of extra virgin olive oil

1/2 c. arugula

This dish is all about timing. The shrimp cook fast, and the garlic can burn easily, so this dish goes very quickly. Heat a saute pan on medium high until relatively hot. Add olive oil and garlic. The garlic should end up with a golden toast, so it takes on a nutty flavor. This is key to this dish, so don't over cook the garlic. Shortly after the garlic is added (about a minute), add the shrimp, and don't touch it until you start to smell the garlic. Toss and add chili flakes (I use a heavy hand with the chilis). As soon as you add the lime, the garlic will stop toasting, so wait until the garlic is golden, then add the juice of two limes. It will reduce a bit. At this point, the shrimp are done. I like to pour this over a handful of arugula. Cut the additional lime in half for a fresh hint of lime. A nice hunk of ciabatta will make this a happy dish too. Enjoy or come to Bridge Street, and we will make it for you.

Tipping and motivation

I first learned about tipping from my Uncle George.

Uncle George loved to poke social conformities in the eye.

He converted his suburban home to a farm by covering it with truckloads of horse poop.

In case any of the neighbors did not know what the trucks were dumping he put a load on the sidewalk so they had to walk around it.

Uncle George made me a "partner" in the farm.

I was to get half the crop.

I was five.

The partner thing was an end run on my mom who could stop me working for George, but not if I was a partner.

I loved working with my Uncle George.

I worked mostly weekends. Sunday evening was a tragic time for me.

I was always saddened by the long drive back home in the waning light to a house filled with a bunch of screaming little Irish siblings.

As I got out of the car, George would slip me a couple of bucks.

A couple of bucks then was like a 50 now. With a buck you could fill a paper bag the size of your head with penny candy.

I would argue with him, "I can't take pay. I'm a partner. I'm getting half of the crop."

George would say, "It's not pay. It's a tip. It's extra because you worked hard."

And that is what tipping is.

And that is how tipping works.

It's an extra that gets people to work a little harder.

I worked my way through law school slinging beer in a tavern.

The beer was 55 cents. The patron was supposed to tip a nickel a beer – and if he didn't, then the waiter was allowed to cut him off.

When you cut them off, they would try to trip you when you passed between the tables.

It was like one of those old Fred Astaire dancing movies, only the

full-to-overflowing beer glasses weren't glued to the tray.

I learned how fast I could move for a nickel.

I learned more about the efficacy of tipping while working as a rookie waiter at Arnaud's in New Orleans. I was an illegal alien at the time, so the law degree was not very useful. I could wait tables or pick tomatoes. Waiting tables was air-conditioned.

When a good tipper entered the restaurant, the seas parted to find him a table. He not only got better and more gracious service, but often lagniappe as well -– an extra oyster or a better cut of beef.

And the better the tipper the faster the service. The New Orleans work reinforced the value of a nickel – only it was a nickel of percentages.

I was being trained by a veteran waiter who was asked by one of his patrons, "Waiter can you tell me what 15 percent of this bill is just off the top of your head?"

He answered, "No sir, but I could tell you 20 percent."

Tipping has a magnificent virtue – it works. People really do work a little harder if they believe they will be rewarded for the effort.

I wish we could use tipping more. If we tipped government workers maybe the government would work better. Their political bosses are being tipped by interest groups and corporations. Maybe we should make them share it around.

Let us know what you think, post a comment.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper