Shrimp blows traditional toppings out of the water
Shrimp can be an asset to your pizzeria by manipulating your menu to accommodate the many seafood lovers in America. Granted, some traditionally inclined people may stick to that old and dry rule of never allowing seafood on a pizza, but those tired culinary fairy tales are being broken like never before by innovative chefs and restaurants who combine shrimp and pizza to blow your mind.
Shrimp has always been popular because of its natural abundance and the ease at which it could be caught using a net. In the fourth century, Plhiloxenus described honey-glazed shrimp as a favorite of the Greek banquets. The Imperial Romans went crazy for “garum” (now called coloratura). It was a sauce of fermented shrimp, anchovy, fish and salt. In the 1500s, when the conquistadors reached the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, they marveled at the array of freshwater shrimp wrapped in tortillas with tadpoles, beans and a froth from the lake (now Mexico City) compressed into a type of cheese.
MORE on the Shrimp Saltimbocca Pizza recipe at Pizzatoday.com/more/prawnstars
As a restaurateur, there are many traps, misinformation and just downright “what?” moments when buying, cooking, serving and pricing shrimp. I recently bought a 32-ounce bag of shrimp for $16. When it unfroze, the shrimp weighed 27 ounces even before shelling them! So let’s immerse ourselves in the 1-2-3s of shrimp before buying a whole case and ending up in the drink:
- Size matters. The industry has devised a measuring system for shrimp because there are so many different sizes of shrimp. This dual numbering system should be –– but isn’t –– on every bag and case of shrimp. It’s a little box with “shrimp count per pound” and then two numbers with a backwards slash in between them like these: 13/15; 16/20; 21/25; 26/30; 31/40; 41/50; 51/60; 61/70 and 71/90. The first number is the minimum amount of shrimp that equal a pound (16 ounces) and the last number is the maximum amount of shrimp equaling a pound. The higher these numbers are, the smaller the shrimp. And the larger the shrimp, the higher the price — with a few exceptions.
- Additives. Let’s face it: fresh shrimp are the best…period. But if you have to use frozen, please know that a lot of shrimp is immersed in polyphosphates or tripolyphosphates. A phosphate is a salt of sulfuric acid found naturally. This chemical is known to hold in moisture in the proteins to prevent “drip loss” in seafood. Overuse can cause the shrimp to look larger, thus increasing the price regardless of that bleachy taste. I try to only buy shrimp with the ingredients on the label that reads “shrimp, salt.”
- Price. We’ve all been disappointed after biting into a giant fried shrimp only to find a skimpy shrimp inside the cave of crust. The same holds true for pizzas, which is why the “spread” of this topping on a pie is all-important. For example, 13/15 count shrimp can run you $.89 apiece. That means that five of these shrimp will cost you $4.45. I’ve used 21/25 shrimp that are $.42 per shrimp. This can cost up to $4.50 per pizza, but with less cheese and cheaper supporting toppings, an acceptable food cost can look like this:
Alfredo Sauce $.30
Pamigiano $.93= $7.32 pizza cost.
That $7.32 shrimp pie, if sold for $19.99, would be a 36-percent food cost and an increase of revenue of $12.67. If it were priced at $21.99, the cost would be 33 percent with single pizza income of $14.67. What is acceptable and would sell in your market is up to you.
Another option is to use smallish frozen, cooked, peeled and deveined shrimp. They come right out of the freezer and onto the pizza with no waste and they thaw just enough to give any pie a great taste. I also like cutting raw, medium/large shrimp horizontally through the body. This expands 10 shrimp into 20 and affords a tasty shrimp or two on each slice cooking perfectly with a nice curl.
Carolina Shrimp and Grits Pizza
This is quite possibly the best darn pizza I’ve tasted — maybe because the flavors remind me of breakfast on Folly Beach outside Charleston, South Carolina.
John Gutekanst owns Avalanche Pizza in Athens, Ohio and has a pizza blog called Pizza Goon. He is an award-winning pizzaiolo, baker, teacher, speaker and author.