This simple preparation lies squarely within the culinary canon of the American south and yet would have been a composition of flavors familiar to any eighteenth century Londoner. The original recipe appears in A New Turn in the South, Hugh Acheson’s unpretentious and exemplary essay on southern foodways. A New Turn executes a tricky three step: Acheson is at once authentic and accessible while also innovative. Your shrimp will welcome any number of variations on the basic theme.
For the pickle:
-scant ½ teaspoon ground allspice
-6 fresh bay leaves
-heaped ½ teaspoon celery seed
-scant teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
-1 Tablespoon coarse sea salt (we use Maldon)
-2 smashed and minced garlic cloves
-¼ cup minced flat parsley
-about 2/3 cup extremely finely sliced sweet onion
-scant ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
-about ¼ cup lemon juice
-scant ¼ cup cane vinegar
For the shrimp:
-2 Tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
-12 oz lager or pilsner beer
-1 lb peeled raw shrimp
- Combine the pickling ingredients in a nonreactive bowl or, better, freezer bag big enough to hold the shrimp
- Make an ice bath in a big bowl to shock the shrimp.
- Put the beer and Old Bay in a big pot with enough water to cover the shrimp easily: Bring it to a boil.
- Throw the shrimp into the pot and cook them only until they just curl and pinken, usually in little more than a minute.
- Immediately drain the shrimp and push them down into the ice bath to prevent overcooking.
- Once they chill, ruthlessly drain the shrimp; you do not want a soggy pickle.
- Gently toss the shrimp in the pickle and refrigerate for a good 24 hours before serving.
-Acheson omits the beer and cane vinegar (and therefore uses 1/3 cup of lemon juice), calls for less spice other than the Old Bay and doubles the Editor’s amount of olive oil.
-Creole seasoning works equally as well as Old Bay: It is all good.
-You also could dispense with either spice mix and substitute ½ teaspoon cayenne, a teaspoon of ground coriander and 1½ teaspoons ground cumin. Also replace the lemon with lime juice and the parsley with fresh cilantro.
-If you cannot get fresh bay, despair not. Just substitute a dozen dried bay leaves.
-For something with a pronounced and robust British cast, substitute shallot for the garlic and malt vinegar for the juice and cane vinegar.
-Acheson grinds his own allspice with the celery seed. Purists may follow suit.
Bonus recipe. Acheson includes a recipe for marinated anchovies that is not much of a recipe at all. It is too good and easy to deny our readers. You need nothing but 16 marinated white anchovy halves, pink or red grapefruit sections (the ones from a jar will do), a good grind of black pepper and drizzle of extra virgin olive oil to make four starters of anchovy and grapefruit. Alternate slices of anchovy with sections of grapefruit, add a dose of pepper and finish with the drizzle of oil. Sublime.