Shrimp Pizza

Putting together a seafood pizza can be somewhat problematic (but you can bet that once you put shrimp pizza on your menu, it will be a best-seller). In fact, there are only a few types of seafood (food cost notwithstanding) that work as a pizza topping —among those, clams and shrimp are the most feasible. I have addressed the clam issue here in the past, so now it’s all about shrimp.

If I were giving a seminar on shrimp pizza I suspect that I would get some of the following questions: “What size shrimp works best?” “What pizza sauces work (or doesn’t work) with shrimp?” “Got any inside tips on how to make a shrimp pizza that eats large?” (A little play on words there.)

Those are all good questions, and here are the answers: Shrimp is ordered based on count. Shrimp is sold by size. Shrimp sizes are expressed in counts per pound. For example, 16/20 means 16 to 20 shrimp per pound. The smaller the count, the larger the size of the shrimp, and generally, the higher the price. Small sizes of shrimp, like coldwater cooked and peeled, will have counts ranging from 150/250, 250/300, etc.

Sizes are sometimes, too, expressed as names instead of numbers: Jumbo, large, medium, but the number system is a lot more accurate. Also, counts are different when applied to peeled and/or cooked shrimp. The term “finished count” refers to the actual number of peeled shrimp per pound in the package.

The size shrimp you will end up using is based on the size pizzas you offer. I would not offer a shrimp pizza in any size less than 12-inches, because you will be fighting a price issue. For example, a 14-inch pizza loaded with shrimp will command a premium price (and the customer will go for it).

Generally speaking, you will receive shrimp that is fresh frozen and peeled (peeling shrimp for a pizza topping is totally out of the question, so order peeled shrimp). The shrimp should have a clean smell (the smell of ammonia is a dead giveaway that the shrimp is over the hill). To defrost, simply put the shrimp in a bowl and run cold water over the block until the shrimp separates. Keep the shrimp in ice cold water until ready to use. When not in use, shrimp should be kept lightly covered (on crushed ice if possible) in the coldest part of the walk-in.

Blot moisture with paper towels before proceeding. Devein if the shrimp are large to jumbo. With smaller shrimp deveining is not necessary. Once defrosted, shrimp should be used within three days. Do not (repeat: do not) use cooked shrimp on a pizza. The oven heat will render the shrimp totally dry and tasteless.

What sauces work with shrimp? As you will see in the recipes, I have one pizza with sliced fresh tomatoes, one with no sauce at all, and one with a spicy red sauce. One more suggestion: An oil and garlic sauce works great with a shrimp pizza. I am not big on using too much cheese when constructing a shrimp pizza, since too much cheese will mask the clean flavor of the shrimp.

Shrimp and Black Bean Pizza

A version of a pizza that I encountered a few years ago in a seaside village in Mexico. It has surf-and-turf connotations — beans and shrimp — with just the right blend of herbs to pump up the flavor.

Yield: One 14-inch pizza (scale up in direct proportion)

1 14-inch pizza shell

2 cups canned black beans, drained, rinsed

¼ cup chopped red onion

½ teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons finely chopped peppers in adobo sauce

1 clove garlic minced

½ pound fresh diced plum or Roma tomatoes (about 1 cup)

¼ cup chopped scallions

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

6 extra-jumbo (16-20 count, about 18 shrimp to a pound) shrimp cut in half lengthwise, deveined (if necessary), rinsed under cold water, cut in half crosswise

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

In a large bowl, combine the beans, onion, cumin, chipotle peppers, garlic, tomatoes, and scallions. Add the olive oil and toss to combine. Spread the bean mixture evenly over the crust (leave about ½-inch border). Arrange the shrimp evenly over the beans while pushing them into the beans (this will prevent the shrimp from being overcooked). Bake. Just before sending the pizza out, sprinkle on the cilantro.

Shrimp and Avocado Pizza

Yield: One 14-inch pizza (scale up in direct proportion)

1 14-inch pizza shell

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 teaspoons chopped fresh garlic

6 ounces diced avocado

6 ounces peeled rock shrimp, chopped

4 ounces shredded Fontina cheese

Chiffonade of fresh basil

Brush the entire pizza shell with the olive oil. Sprinkle the garlic evenly over the crust. Sprinkle on the diced avocado and the rock shrimp. Distribute the cheese evenly over the pizza. Bake. Just before sending out the pizza, sprinkle on the chiffonade of fresh basil.

Shrimp Pizza Arrabbiata

Arrabbiata translates from the Italian as “angry,” so in this shrimp pizza the tomato sauce gets a spicy kick from crushed red pepper flakes. The smoked mozzarella tames the spiciness just a bit and adds a delicious flavor dimension to the pizza.

Yield: Two 12-inch pizzas (scale up in direct proportion)

2 12-inch pizza shells

12 ounces pizza sauce or all-purpose ground tomatoes

4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

½ cup chopped red onion

8 extra-jumbo shrimp (16-20 count), cut in half, deveined, rinsed under cold water, each half cut in half

1 cup shredded smoked mozzarella

Divide the sauce, the red pepper flakes and the red onion evenly between the two pizza shells. Now sprinkle on the shrimp, an even amount between each of the pizza shells (visualize how you will cut the pizza and get enough shrimp on each pizza shell so that every piece has a good amount). Divide the smoked mozzarella between the two pizza shells. Bake.