A reader asks why shrimp are often served with the tail still attached.
Q. Why is it that restaurants from low-end to elegant leave the tails on cooked shrimp? It’s a pain to take them off in an entree!
A. Tails left on cooked shrimp are meant to be decorative. That they drive you crazy at the same time is simply coincidence, although it may not seem so during the holiday season when practically every meal or party is awash in tail-on shrimp.
Like paper frills festooning a crown rib roast, the tails do give a shrimp dish an extra dimension visually.
Good luck getting restaurants, or holiday hosts for that matter, to take off that tail. The good news is removing the tail is a snap.
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Usually, the tail is attached to a segment of shell in which there’s a bite of shrimp left. If you are in a situation where you can use your fingers, pick up the shrimp and tug it gently from the shell. Or, you can put the shrimp in your mouth, start chomping down on that segment of tail shell and suck the meat out of the tail. Put the empty shell segment and tail piece back on your plate.
When using a knife and fork, cut straight across the shell segment where it connects to the tail. Then spear the remaining piece of shrimp peeking out of the shell with your fork and ease it out. That last nugget usually comes away easily. If not, use a knife to cut open the shell segment, then pull out the meat.
You can always leave that last bit of shrimp in the shell along with the tail; there are no rules requiring you to eat it.