Spiced Pickled Shrimp
December is a time of tradition, when our senses combine to recreate memories and feelings from holidays spent with the ones we love. Perhaps I'm particularly sentimental because this will be my first Christmas spent away from my home and family in the Lowcountry, which has given me cause to recreate and put a spin on our family traditions up here in Tennessee.
Earlier this week, a dear friend of ours brought pounds of shrimp from a Thanksgiving trip to the coast, so that we could host a Lowcountry boil for my husband's bowling team (yes, that's a real thing). Rob has perfected the art of a boil, and dinner was delicious, however, I was looking forward to getting more mileage out of the leftovers. There was plenty of boiled shrimp remaining to make a hearty batch of pickled shrimp, which my mother prepares every year that her children descend upon her for Christmas.
Especially this year, this recipe is transportive. The scents of wintery spice, the subtle sweetness bay leaves, and smooth olive oil makes this recipe a must-try. It has not failed to drop me right in my mother's kitchen around Christmastime, crowded around the island with my older siblings, avoiding a snap from a dish towel by my brother, and a bruising "love pinch" on the arm from my sister. Mom is distractedly cooking, white wine in hand, while Dad sits bemused in his giant leather armchair sipping an old fashioned with a couple of corgis on his lap. A grinning golden retriever is in on the fun. Later, we'll probably be curled up, watching A Christmas Carol or the original How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
Spiced Pickled Shrimp, from the venerated cookbook Charleston Receipts, is a perfect example of effortless elegance and is a true crowd-pleaser. Recipe follows.
spiced pickled shrimp
- 2 pounds of shrimp
- Bay leaves
- 1/2 yellow onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 cup good olive oil
- 1/4 cup tarragon vinegar
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- Handful of pickling spices
In a crock (I use a Pyrex baking dish), put a layer of boiled shrimp, a layer of bay leaves (about 5 to a layer), and a layer of very thinly sliced onions. Alternate until all shrimp are used. Make a French dressing of the other ingredients and pour over shrimp, etc. Cover and put in the refrigerator for 24 hours, stirring occasionally. Serve with toothpicks in a bowl over ice for a cocktail party or as a salad with lettuce. Or just casually snack on them with friends and family!
Recipe adapted from Mrs. Jack Maybank (Lavinia Huguenin) in Charleston Receipts