Try these variations of shrimp salad

May 31, 2019
Sometimes a mistake turns into a happy accident. I was shopping for dinner at Lloyd’s last week and picked up a package of shrimp. It was the perfect amount, close to a pound, and the shrimp were firm and a nice size. The best part was that they weren’t frozen, which meant I could start cooking right away without waiting for them to defrost.
Once I got home and read the label, I realized these were not only not frozen, they’d already been cooked. My plans for shrimp kebobs were dashed – any attempt to reheat cooked shrimp would only result in an unpleasant, chewy texture. These needed to stay chilled. Fortunately, it was warm that day, so a cold-salad dinner would work.
I chopped the shrimp and tossed them with diced cucumber, tomatoes and a rice-wine vinaigrette. The seasonings were a subtle combination of shallot salt, white pepper and lemon juice. I filled avocado halves with the shrimp salad, creating a nice contrast between the crunchy cucumbers, juicy tomato, firm shrimp and creamy avocado.
This mixture could be modified any number of ways. You can add more crunch with sliced radish or chopped celery, more softness with hearts of palm, and a different base by switching out the avocado for tomato halves or a bed of arugula. You could sharpen the flavors of the vinaigrette with red pepper flakes or change its profile with toasted sesame oil and sesame seeds.
There are a number of ways to buy shrimp, and I count this one as an excellent choice. Since they were packed in clear plastic, it was easy to see the condition of the shrimp was fine. However, not all precooked shrimp are created equal. For example, some of the bags of frozen cooked shrimp in the supermarkets contain broken pieces of shrimp and shells; it’s not uncommon to find the contents frostbitten or freezer-burned.
Some stores offer to steam the shrimp behind the counter while you wait. This can be a good choice, depending upon how heavy a hand the clerks have with the Old Bay seasoning – sometimes you just don’t want that flavor profile in your shrimp. When considering prewrapped packages of cooked shrimp, be sure to check the “sell by” dates or the date they went on sale.
So often when we go to buy “fresh” shrimp, there’s a small sign with the words “previously frozen” in fine print. These are shrimp that were frozen soon after being caught and shelled. Unfortunately, many of these are treated with sodium tripolyphosphate (also called pentasodium triphosphate or STPP). This chemical is used as a preservative to help retain moisture and maintain texture.
Although listed by the FDA under the category of GRAS (generally regarded as safe), STPP can give shrimp a chalky flavor and cause them to release a great deal of liquid when cooked. The best choice is truly fresh, domestic, wild-caught shrimp, preferably from the Gulf Coast or Carolinas. 
If you can’t find domestic shrimp, those from Thailand should be avoided at all costs; look instead for Argentine red shrimp or Mexican brown shrimp. And, once you have found good shrimp, consider one of these recipes to showcase their tender texture with a range of flavors.
Steamed Shrimp
1 lb shrimp
1 quartered lemon
1/2 t salt
Peel and devein the shrimp; set aside. Fill a soup pot with water and bring to a boil. Fill a colander with ice cubes and place in the sink. Add salt, lemon and shrimp to the boiling water. Cook until the shrimp is opaque, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp to the colander with a slotted spoon; toss to cool. Drain shrimp and pat dry.
Stuffed Avocado
1 lb steamed shrimp
2 small tomatoes
1/2 cucumber
2 T olive oil
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 T lemon juice
1/2 t white pepper
1/4 t shallot salt
4 avocados, halved
snipped chives
Chop shrimp into halves or thirds and place in a serving bowl. Dice tomatoes and add to the bowl. Dice the cucumber and add to the bowl. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, lemon juice, pepper and salt. Pour dressing over shrimp and toss gently to combine. Place 2 avocado halves on each plate and stuff with shrimp salad. Garnish with snipped chives. Yield: 4 servings.
Dilly Shrimp Salad
1 lb steamed shrimp
1/2 C finely diced celery
3 T minced red onion
2 T lemon juice
1/2 C mayonnaise
1 t Dijon mustard
1 1/2 T chopped fresh dill
salt & pepper, to taste
dill frond for garnish
Chop shrimp into halves or thirds and place in a serving bowl. Add celery, red onion, lemon juice, mayonnaise, mustard and dill. Toss gently to combine. Adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Serve on a bed of lettuce, garnished with dill fronds. Yield: 4 servings.
Ginger Sesame Shrimp
1 lb steamed shrimp
1 T olive oil
1 T chili paste
2 T lime juice
1 T rice wine vinegar
2 t soy sauce
1 pressed garlic clove
2 t honey
1 T grated ginger
1/4 t toasted sesame oil
1 C grated cabbage
2 grated carrots
Chop shrimp into halves or thirds and place in a serving bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Pour dressing over shrimp and toss gently to combine. Serve on a bed of grated cabbage and carrots. Yield: 4 servings.

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