Pickled Shrimp: I am in the middle of a weeklong tribute to the recipes of my mother. I am lucky to have so many of her recipes compiled into a cookbook my brother put together after she passed away in 1993, long before her time.
Up until today, I chose recipes from this collection that were familiar to me. Foods strongly attached to the woman I knew as mom and the food she provided my childhood tummy. Some comfort foods from my past, or dishes that I find endearing because they highlight some aspect of my mother’s quirky attributes, or maybe just plain old childhood favorites.
But my mother knew a heck of a lot more about food than merely being the person who filled the bellies of three ungrateful eaters night after night. She was well read and had a sophisticated palate. So, until today none of the recipes I have presented really spoke to my mother’s great love of exciting flavors. She was at the front end of American housewives branching out into classical French cooking styles at home. My mother had strong attachments to culinary cities like San Francisco and New Orleans. I remember my parents traveling to these cities and I remember my mother coming home and talking about the food.
I chose this Pickled Shrimp recipe today because I imagine it might have been something she enjoyed on one of these culinary adventures. It’s easy to conjure up visions of her freshly arrived home with an excitement to recreate some version of the foods she sampled on her journey. I say imagine ‘cuz I don’t really know for sure. But in my mind when I see this recipe, I think of New Orleans. I think of hot, lazy afternoons on the verandah, slurping down a few a few of these spicy, vinegary shrimp with a cold beer or maybe a golden-hued glass of some lightly spicy wine.
My point is this is not a recipe I remember from my childhood. My mother never made it for me. But I can see why she may have liked it. And though it’s a rather straightforward preparation, in my mind this is the kind of recipe that really shows that my mother had a very adventurous palate for the times. I wish she had shared this recipe with me when she was alive. I’d love to know what inspired her to create or recreate it. What influences had she been following? Did she indeed slurp these as I imagine on some verandah in the French Quarter? Or did she come across this recipe (or some near version of it) in her armchair travels with her beloved Gourmet magazine?
Sadly, I’ll never know the truth. But my mother had enough southern charm that it is easy for me to imagine all sorts of romantic Créole backdrops attached to this recipe. So if you’ll leave me to it… that’s just what I have in mind as I slurp back a few of these shrimps and swirl a glass of Palacios Remondo Rioja Plácet Blanc. It’s a rather indulgent wine for me, and I really want to ease into the moment. So where’s the nearest verandah?
- 2 T old bay seasoning
- 1 c cider vinegar
- 2 t lightly crushed yellow mustard seeds
- 1⁄2 c prepared tomato sauce
- 1 1⁄2 c vegetable oil
- 2 T hot sauce, or more to taste
- 2 T Worcestershire sauce
- 1⁄2 t kosher salt
- 1 t whole black peppercorns
- 3 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1⁄4 c capers drained and rinsed
- 1 yellow bell pepper, stemmed, cored and sliced into slivers
- 1 medium red onion, peeled halved and sliced into slivers
- good rustic bread to serve
Add the Old Bay Seasoning to a large pot of water, cover and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook, stirring, until they just start to curl, about 1 minute. Drain and spread on a large rimmed baking sheet. Cool to room temperature.
In a large non-reactive container with a lid, combine vinegar, mustard, tomato sauce, oil, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and peppercorns. Stir to combine. Then add the capers, bell pepper, onion, and the reserved shrimp. Let marinate at least 2 days, then serve with slices of good rustic bread.
NOTE: Don’t worry if the shrimp appear undercooked after being boiled for just 1 minute. They will finish “cooking” as they pickle.
SERIOUS FUN FOOD