I’ve just finished my last “Thanksgiving on a roll,” as I call a leftover turkey sandwich, this past Sunday.
Between some really good bread and a slather of high quality mayonnaise are slices of leftover turkey, a scoop of stuffing, a drizzle of cranberry sauce and sometimes gravy. I honestly believe I love this version of Thanksgiving better than the meal itself from a food perspective. It also acts as a catalyst for me to shift gears and start thinking through the month of gatherings to come.
My first order of business is to pickle some shrimp. Pickled shrimp is a classic North Carolina party treat.
While the great Southern novelist Pat Conroy called pickled shrimp “funeral food,” which they are good for that purpose, they have unlimited potential for entertaining both friends and family.
Think about the drop-in folks you will see this month, and you will have an instant nibble for them. They make a great snack for the tree-trimming event, or for some Christmas Eve fun. As a hostess gift? Wonderful. Perfect for a New Year’s Eve celebration, or part of a spread for bowl game watching, and they can continue into Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day.
Also use the shrimp as a garnish for soup or the base of a salad, even as a little treat garnish for most any meal.
I guess you could call pickled shrimp a quick pickle, and they are not at all difficult to make, yet the presentation gives the impression of difficulty. They do need to sit for a few days for the flavors to meld, and tend to just get better and better.
We are at the last weeks of green-tail shrimp season, and if you can make a run to the coast, then do so and fill your freezer with them. At least check with your fishmonger for them.
Chefs and foodies in the know revere green-tails.
Green-tails are North Carolina’s fall treat from our waters. The shrimp like brackish waters, making our sounds a perfect place for them to hang out.
They are very different than the brown shrimp of the summer months. Green-tails are white shrimp with a subtle ocean flavor and are usually very firm and sweet. Not only are they perfect for pickling, but green-tails in the 16-24 count per pound are superior shrimp for grilling.
I buy a bounty of 21-24 count per pound for my freezer. This size gives me the most versatility. And, if you want to stretch the shrimp when you pickle them, slice then in half from the head end lengthwise to the tail. Nobody will catch on because they are going to be talking about how great they taste.
Get in the habit of pickling shrimp for entertaining. They keep for a couple of weeks in the refrigerator and give you instant hospitality. Frozen North Carolina shrimp are available year round so seek them out. Our fisherman deserve your support.
Serve with: Use as part of a party buffet, to enrich a salad, and how about a couple on top of that slice of rib roast you might cook for a holiday gathering.
To drink: I like a new world Sauvignon Blanc with the shrimp. My favorite right now is Dashwood from New Zealand
Fred Thompson is a Raleigh cookbook author and publisher of Edible Piedmont magazine. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fred’s Pickled Shrimp
Adapted from The Big Book of Fish and Shellfish by Fred Thompson.
1 cup thinly sliced yellow onion (about 1 small)
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 small fennel, fronds removed and thinly sliced, optional but good
1 (2-ounce) bottle capers, drained and coarsely chopped
4 bay leaves, crushed
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
1 teaspoon celery seeds
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 pounds large (24-count) shrimp, peeled and deveined
Mix the onion, vinegar, oil, lemon, lemon juice, fennel if using, capers, bay leaves, garlic, salt, celery seeds and pepper flakes in a large heatproof glass or ceramic bowl.
In a medium stockpot over high heat, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the shrimp, remove the pot from the heat, and let the shrimp steep for 4 minutes. The shrimp will continue to “cook” in the marinade, so don’t worry if they’re still a bit raw. Drain and immediately pour the shrimp into the marinade.
Place the shrimp and marinade in a glass container with a tight lid. Marinate overnight in the refrigerator. A few days are better, and they will keep for 2-3 weeks in the refrigerator. Bring to room temperature to serve.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings. Easily doubles.