The rock shrimp (Sicyonia brevirostris) is a deep-water cousin of pink, brown, and white shrimps. The similarity among these shrimp stops there, because rock shrimp have a tough, hard exoskeleton or shell that prevented widespread marketing until a machine was invented to split and devein the headed shrimp. Now, rock shrimp are widely available as fresh or frozen,whole, headless, shell-on, peeled, round, split, or deveined products.
Rock shrimp have a life cycle different from regular shrimp and are harvested differently. Similar to deep-sea lobster, rock shrimp live, spawn, and are harvested in 120 feet to 240 feet of water. Harvesting is accomplished with reinforced trawl nets throughout the year.
Properly handled rock shrimp will have transparent or clear white flesh with no discoloration. The odor of fresh rock shrimp will be mild and ocean-like. Rock shrimp are sold by "count" (number of shrimp per pound) and the largest size generally available is 21-25 per pound. When purchasing, it is helpful to know that two pounds of raw tails will yield one pound of cooked, peeled, and deveined rock shrimp.
If rock shrimp have to be cleaned, use one of these methods. For broiling in the shell: place the rock shrimp on a cutting board, dorsal side down and the swimmerets up. With a sharp knife, cut from the base of the tail to the other end, but not through the shell. Gently spread the meat apart to expose the sand vein and wash the vein away under cold running water. To remove the shell: use sharp kitchen scissors to snip through the back, down the middle, and to base of tail. Gently separate shell from flesh and remove exposed sand vein by rinsing under cold running water. This method is recommended for boiling, sauteing, and other cooking methods besides broiling.
Rock shrimp cook more quickly than other shrimp. To boil, drop in a pot of boiling salted water, stir, and after 35 seconds, pour into a colander and rinse with cold water. To broil rock shrimp, place four inches from the source of heat for two minutes, or until the meat turns opaque white.
Approximate nutritional values for 4 ounces (114 grams) of raw, edible portion: calories--110; calories from fat- 25; total fat--1 gram; saturated fat--0 gram; cholesterol--140 milligrams; sodium--380 milligrams; carbohydrate-- 0 gram*; protein-- 21 grams; calcium-- 25% RDI**; iron-- 0% RDI.
* Dietary fiber and sugars exist in insignificant amounts in seafoods.
** RDI means Recommended Daily Intake.