Shrimp salad is cool, refreshing, perhaps a little well-to-do with its mild connotations of summering in Martha’s Vineyard or Chappaquidick Island. These days, it’s not exactly the kind of food that comes to mind as we brace ourselves against the Polar Vortex. And yet, I enjoy it. It’s tasty and pretty easy to make. You can serve it on a salad or a piece of toast. And for those of us who are busy or otherwise lazy in the kitchen, it requires very little ‘cooking.‘
This dish has a special place in my heart. In 2011, just after my wife and I were married, we flew to Montreal for our honeymoon. The city, though enormous, seemed somehow quaint and personable, a sort of mix of Midwestern friendliness and sophisticated french manners all at once. On our last day there, we happened upon a small restaurant where the guests dine in an enclosed courtyard. It was sunny and warm. Over a glass of a crisp and floral Rosé, we shared a salad of local rock shrimp and sweet lobster on a bed of local greens.
The emotions surrounding that day make the dish that much more legendary. While the food was undoubtedly delicious, it was the company that made the afternoon so graceful and memorable. Perhaps this dish will not evoke the deepest feelings of love and longing, but it will give your taste buds something to flirt with.
In its most basic incarnation, a shrimp salad will have, well, shrimp, of course, celery, and a slightly citrusy sauce to hold it all together. But there’s much that can be done to dress this dish up. For starters, instead of using store-bought mayonnaise, this version uses a homemade aioli. If you’re not hip to aioli, it’s a rich and creamy emulsification made with an egg yolk, minced garlic, oil, and a bit of lemon juice.
You can (and should!) add fresh herbs like chopped tarragon and snipped chives. While the salad you see above is creamy, crunchy, and herbaceous, it also has a pleasing citrusy sweetness thanks to wafer-thin slices of meyer lemon. Unlike a conventional lemon, meyer lemons have a much thinner skin, sweeter flesh, and a faint aroma of fresh thyme. Each slice adds an unexpected burst of cleansing citrus.
1/2 lb bay shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/4 cup chopped celery
2 tbsp good mayonnaise (or homemade aioli)
1 tbsp dijon mustard
1 meyer lemon, sliced paper-thin
crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper, to taste
Heat a sautée pan on medium high. Add 1/2 tsp of olive oil. Pour in the shrimp and let cook for about 1 minute or until just firm. Set shrimp aside to cool. Meanwhile, prep your celery and fresh chives by chopping them finely.
When the shrimp have cooled, add them to a medium bowl with the celery, mayonnaise (aioli, if using) and mustard. Mix until just combined, then add the chives and crushed red pepper flakes and season with salt and pepper.
Serve the salad over crisp romaine hearts or atop a toasted croissant. Garnish with more chives and the sliced meyer lemon.