Saveur (October 2011)
Back in the summer, on one of those steamy, swampy, oppressively hot evenings that Washingtonians know so well, we went to our friends' Trevor and Owen's place for a potluck dinner. The air was thick as velvet, and all the guests arrived sweaty and bedraggled from the heat.
Then, a lifeline: Our friend Jen had brought a bowl of pickled shrimp.
We all dove in. The lemony, pickly, vinegary shrimp was the perfect antidote to the sweaty summer night. The sharp flavors of the chilled shrimp instantly cooled things off for everyone. (A libation or three didn't hurt, either.)
So when we saw this recipe for Pickled Shrimp in the latest issue of Saveur, we knew we wanted to try it out ourselves.
This recipe is from Athens, Georgia chef Hugh Acheson, a Top Chef Masters alum (and a judge on the upcoming season of Top Chef) whose recent cookbook, A New Turn in the South, showcases new takes on classic Southern foods. (Also, as you may know if you've happened to look at the November issue of Food & Wine, Hugh Acheson may or may not be responsible for the break-up of R.E.M. Did he push them to the edge by making them snap that entire huge bag of beans? We kid. Or do we?)
Anyway, back to pickled shrimp.
This recipe is crazy simple. In fact, if you buy already-cooked shrimp, you can even skip the first step and just toss the shrimp in Old Bay before you add it to the jar. (We did use already-cooked shrimp, because it was the only thing available at the seafood counter that day. We followed the recipe's instructions and cooked the shrimp in Old Bay, but we ultimately found it unnecessary to have cooked the shrimp a second time -- ours were definitely overcooked.)
Essentially, then, this recipe boils down to one simple step: "Throw all the ingredients in a jar and chill overnight." Easy, peasy!
A couple of notes:
- We found that we didn't have enough liquid to cover the shrimp and onions. Mr. Hugh Acheson himself commented on the Saveur recipe, suggesting you can add more oil to fill the jar to the top. We hadn't seen that, so instead we opted to add some apple cider vinegar to our jar. We wanted the extra oomph we'd get from the vinegar, and we were happy with the result.
- If you can't find Old Bay seasoning where you live, Emeril Lagasse's Creole Seasoning is a fine substitute. It's a mix of paprika, garlic powder, onion powder and other spices. You can also order Old Bay online.
The end result of this pickled shrimp? Outstanding! It's packed with perky, sharp flavors that add an excellent twist to shrimp.
We ate ours as a pre-dinner snack, but these shrimp would be marvelous in a simple green salad, or tossed with cold soba noodles.
If we had one quibble, it would only be that pickled shrimp seems a teensy bit out of place in an October food magazine. It's a dish that's so light and summery, it just seems the tiniest bit odd to be eating in autumn.
That said, these would make a killer appetizer for a holiday party -- a sharp, lemony taste to cut through all those heavy winter party foods.
And you can bet we'll tuck this recipe away to make again, once the steamy hot nights of summer roll back around.
MAKES ABOUT 6 CUPS
2 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning
1 lb. (26–30 count) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ tsp. celery seeds
¼ tsp. allspice berries
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
¼ cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. crushed red chile flakes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
12 dried bay leaves
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
Bring Old Bay and 8 cups water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan; add shrimp, reduce heat to low, and cook until shrimp are pink, about 2 minutes. Drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to chill; drain again.
Finely grind celery seeds and allspice in a spice grinder; transfer to a bowl and stir in oil, juice, parsley, salt, chile flakes, garlic, and bay leaves. In a 1-qt. glass jar, layer shrimp and onions; pour over oil mixture. Cover with lid; chill overnight before serving.