Pickled shrimp are the perfect combination of casual and sophisticated. To serve, they are pulled straight from the fridge, which is hardly stuffy. Yet, they also seem to be the type of food that you would expect some smartly dressed South Carolinians to be noshing on in the Battery. I’m not sure what it is about them, but in truth, when I have these pickled shrimp on hand, I kind of hope someone will unexpectedly stop by so that I can say, “dah-ling, go rest yourself on the front porch while I pull together some refreshments.”
I’ll then, with the air of someone who does this all the time, walk back to the kitchen where I’ll whip up whiskey-sours and serve them with these shrimp like an unflappable Southern hostess. Better yet, that kind of hospitality sounds like something I would like to experience myself, so perhaps you should make these shrimp and then let me know that I should be dropping by your home in the near future. Shoot, I’ll even wear seersucker for the occasion.
Pickled shrimp are always described as a classic Southern appetizer and I frequently stumble upon recipes for them; so it always surprises me that they are not more commonly found on the table. Maybe, it’s because the preparation requires one to gild the lily. After all, few things are better than perfectly boiled shrimp and it seems a bit counterintuitive to boil shrimp and then, instead of eating them immediately, place them in a vinaigrette to marinate overnight. Yet, making pickled shrimp requires just that and despite my typical philosophy that less is more, here more is…well, worth it.
If you have the shrimp and really want to make yourself happy, I recommend boiling twice as many shrimp as called for in the recipe below. Half can be eaten immediately and the other half can be pickled for later enjoyment.
You didn’t think that far ahead? No worries. The court bouillon, or broth that the shrimp cook in, can be refrigerated for a couple of days before reusing or even frozen for a month. Although if going the frozen route, please double bag as nothing is worse than shrimp juice in the freezer. Enjoy, y’all.
Serves 4 to 6 as an appetizer
I break this recipe up into two parts. The first part involves making a flavorful court bouillon for boiling the shrimp. Shrimp eaten after this first step are delicious served with a spicy cocktail sauce. For those that can delay gratification, proceed with pickling the shrimp for a classy appetizer that can be enjoyed for up to a week.
For boiling the shrimp:
1 lb (21/30 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tail left on
2 quarts water
1 lemon, sliced
1/2 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 parsley sprigs
2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 California Bay leaf or 2 Turkish Bay leaves
For pickling the shrimp:
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
8 Turkish bay leaves
1-2 dried red chilies (I used árbol chilies) (optional)
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
½ teaspoon celery seeds
¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
Pinch of ground allspice
For serving: chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
To boil the shrimp:
Combine the water, lemon, yellow onion slices, parsley sprigs, Old Bay Seasoning, and bay leaf in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. Return to a boil and add the shrimp. Cook for three minutes. Drain the shrimp, discard everything but the shrimp (lemon slices, onions, and parsley), and allow to cool.
To pickle the shrimp:
In a large bowl, toss the cooked shrimp, yellow onion slices, bay leaves, and red chilies (if using) together. Add them to a clean, large mason jar. In the large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, coriander seeds, yellow mustard seeds, celery seeds, ground white pepper, and allspice. Pour the oil mixture over the shrimp and onions. Seal and shake to make sure the ingredients are well combined. Make sure all the shrimp are covered by the oil and seal. Refrigerate overnight. Before enjoying, stir in some chopped flat leaf parsley. Pickled shrimp will last up to one week provided they are covered with oil and kept refrigerated.