In the South Louisiana of my birth, the Cajun French word envie (pronounced ohn-vee) is a hankering for an elusive thing, more likely than not a specific food, as in, “I’ve got an envie for some shrimp salad.”
This was the predicament I found myself in after coming across Gulf shrimp at the market.
I was thinking particularly of a shrimp roll — the bayou equivalent of a Northeastern lobster roll and the poor man’s version of that summer shore staple. Not that the two are comparable: Regardless of how rich lobster meat can be by comparison, the Cajun way with spices will always win out.
With the shrimp poached in a typical Louisiana seafood boil and chilled and bathed in lemon juice and mayonnaise; a little celery and onion for crunch; and cayenne, horseradish and hot sauce for heat, what we have here is a country cousin to New Orleans’ Creole shrimp remoulade.
Served as a sandwich on a pan-toasted, buttered roll with a handful of potato chips, it makes for a great on-the-fly munch; or as a salad on greens, bolstered by diced tomato and avocado, it’s a healthy light lunch or dinner. And you could almost call it a staple: A container will keep for a few days in the refrigerator and provide the basis for a few quick meals.
A word about shrimp: I mention Gulf shrimp specifically — Gulf white (or pink) shrimp is a varietal designation. They are native to the warm, shallow waters of the Gulf of Mexico and off the Eastern Seaboard of Florida and north through the Carolinas. Caught wild, Gulf shrimp are the preferred variety for taste, texture and size, although I should also plug Royal Reds, a deeper-water variety, which are harder to come by.
In comparison, Chinese whites are usually farmed and noticeably softer in texture, a bit “watery” and less flavorful, although improved farming methods may be changing that. Overall, wild shrimp are preferred. This applies to flash-frozen shrimp. Adams Fair Acre Farms usually has frozen shell-on, wild-caught Gulf shrimp.
And about the shells: Don’t toss them because they make a superior broth when quickly fried with a quartered onion, a couple of stalks of celery, a smashed clove of garlic or two, and crumbled bay leaves. Simmer it all in a quart or so of water (and a tablespoon or two of Red Boat Fish Sauce, if handy) for 30 to 45 minutes. This is a great poaching stock for your peeled shrimp as well as a flavor base for any other seafood stew or sauce. Freeze any excess.
Spicy Shrimp Salad
About 6 servings
For the shrimp
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lemon, quartered
- 1- to 4-ounce bag of Zatarain’s crab boil (or substitute 4 bay leaves, 1 tablespoon crushed coriander seeds, 1 tablespoon mustard seeds, 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
1. Bring a medium pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and add crab boil seasonings. Simmer for 5 minutes and add shrimp and return to a boil. Lower heat to medium-low; poach shrimp until pink, curled and opaque throughout
(3 to 4 minutes). Drain and cool; chop roughly and reserve.
For the shrimp salad
- (cooked and cooled shrimp from above)
- 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 to 2 tablespoons horseradish
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- A few dashes of Tabasco (or Crystal) hot sauce
- 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced chives for garnish
- 1. Combine celery, mayonnaise, lemon juice, horseradish, salt, cayenne and hot sauce; stir well. Add shrimp, parsley and dill if using. Toss until well coated in the dressing. Taste and add more mayonnaise, adjust seasonings. Garnish with fresh chives.
2a. For a lobster-type roll, melt a tablespoon of butter in a large skillet and toast a hotdog-style bun (Pepperidge Farm preferred), split side down, until just colored. Add another pat of butter and toast the other side. Fill with a couple of generous scoops of salad and serve with a handful of kettle-style potato chips.
2b. For a salad, place on a bed on tender greens and garnish with diced tomatoes and avocados and/or a squeeze of lemon and light drizzle of olive oil. Shrimp salad will keep refrigerated for about three days.
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