How often have you said “I make the best pickled shrimp” and had the person next to you pipe up and say “no, I make the best pickled shrimp!” Never happened to you? Well, it did to me, and a throw down was born. Our good friend and marina neighbor Anne is the family keeper of her mother’s recipe. I have quite fallen for the one from Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking — and how could New Orleans NOT beat out Hattiesburg, Mississippi in a food challenge? All I’ve ever eaten in Hattiesburg is Krystal burgers. I’ll cut to the chase: Anne’s mother and Hattiesburg beat me, hands down. But try both — they are quite different, both in flavor and amount of time required, and both delicious.
Ruth Weathersby’s Prize Winning Pickled Shrimp
2-1/2 pounds large shrimp
1/2 cup celery tops
1/4 cup mixed pickling spices*
3 teaspoons salt
1/2 large or one smaller yellow onion, thinly sliced
7-8 bay leaves
1-1/4 cups salad oil
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
2-1/2 teaspoons celery seed
2-1/2 teaspoons capers and juice
Dash of Tabasco
*While this is a recipe site and we do encourage making just about everything from scratch, there are times for practicality. Might we recommend you simply buy the prepared pickling spice mix from the grocery spice section (McCormick makes one so most groceries should have it) vs. spending $50 to buy all the component spices? Nonetheless, if you get a wild hair, we respect that: 6 whole cloves, 2 cinnamon sticks broken in half, 2 bay leaves crushed, 2 tablespoons mustard seed, 1 tablespoon allspice berries, 2 teaspoons coriander seeds, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon ground ginger.
Now, Anne neither prepared her shrimp in a galley, nor photographed it along the way. So I get points for that. But hers still won by a mile…very intense shrimp flavor! Herewith, however, some lovely pictures that don’t represent the juxtaposed instructions, which we will all just have to take on faith!
Boil the shrimp in their shells with the celery tops, pickling spices, and 3 teaspoons salt until opaque. Drain and, when cool enough, peel the shrimp. Layer shrimp with onions in a shallow dish. Scatter 7 or 8 bay leaves throughout. Mix all sauce ingredients and pour over the shrimp and onions.
Cover and store in the icebox for 24 hours, stirring several times. Win competition.
And now, for the runner-up from the Big Easy…
Second-Place Pickled Shrimp
2 pounds large shrimp
1 lemon, quartered
2 fresh bay leaves (or 4 dry)
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup vinegar (cider or red wine)
2 teaspoons brown mustard
1/4 cup sugar
2garlic cloves, minced
1 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon, each, salt and black pepper
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons capers with juice
2 fresh bay leaves (or 4 dried)
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
Bring a large pot of water to boil on your galley stove. While it is heating up, squeeze the lemon quarters into the pot and throw the rinds in behind. Add the remaining spices for the shrimp boil and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 5 minutes. Add the peeled and deveined shrimp and return to a boil, for about 3-4 minutes or just until the shrimp are opaque and tails bright pink.
While the spices and shrimp boil, make your vinaigrette, because you are going to want to add the shrimp while warm.
Whisk all of the vinaigrette ingredients together. You can actually make the vinaigrette a day ahead and just let it get delicious in the icebox. I didn’t do that here…probably why I lost. You don’t want the shrimp to sit in the vinaigrette that long or they will start to break down and get mushy, but the onion and all only get better by the day.
When the shrimp are cooked, drain and pull out the lemon quarters and bay leaves.
Add to the vinaigrette while still warm and stir well. Let this sit for at least 15 minutes — better still, a few hours, stirring occasionally — before serving.
Ask Eddy and Lola the Beagle to vote for you with all four/eight paws…but you still might not win!
By the way, you may be left with a lot of vinaigrette (and with luck, some shrimp or at least onions) when the day is done. If so, toss with lettuce tomorrow for one of the best salads you’ve ever had — the onions get sweet and the vinaigrette takes on the brininess of the capers and some oceany shrimp flavor as well. An added perk of the “second place” recipe!