Forty years ago, rock shrimp were considered a trash catch. They were called "peanuts" and "hard heads" because of their tough outer shell. Once opened, the crustaceans revealed a large sand vein that was anything but mouthwatering.
Brevard County boat builder Rodney Thompson took on the shellfish that tasted like lobster with a fervor. After daughter Laurilee persuaded him to treat the shellfish like lobster in the kitchen, there was no turning back on the butterflied, buttered and broiled treat. He and his family developed a high-speed shell-splitting system and streamlined vein removal, taking Florida rock shrimp from trash to treasure. The Thompsons expanded their operations with the opening of Dixie Crossroads Seafood at1475 Garden St. in Titusville.
The family, which includes more than six generations of fishermen, shrimpers and shipbuilders, continues its culinary legacy with Wild Ocean Seafood Market in Titusville and Port Canaveral. Wild Ocean specializes in wild-caught seafood from Florida waters and beyond.
The Thompson family's culinary legacy looms large, thanks in part to the stubborn Florida rock shrimp.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun