When you’re peeling parboiled shrimp, you have a lot of time to think.
You consider whether it would be funny to call the recipe “Pickle Me Pink Shrimp”. You decide that it would not be funny.
You worry that you overcooked the shrimp, and in the event that you did, you worry about having enough additional food so that your husband isn’t raiding the kitchen for a bowl of cereal one hour after dinner.
You think about how two years ago, in preparation for your wedding, you purchased about five giant bags of frozen shrimp. You remember very deliberately examining the bags to ensure that you bought peeled shrimp, yet somehow still managed to end up with the unpeeled variety. You wonder if you did enough to compensate your brother- and sister-in-law for preparing your wedding dinner.
Then you get back to looking forward to a quiet Friday night at home with your husband, eating some food, and listening to records.
I was looking for a meal that required a bit more effort and prep than my go-to plan of bread, cheese, and things from the olive bar. But I wanted something I could put together in a leisurely fashion ahead of time. We ended up with a perfect late-spring/early summer menu that could be made earlier in the day and required minimal cooking:
- Brie and baguette
- Pasta tossed with that lovely pesto from Wegman’s olive bar
- Artichoke hearts in oil (also from olive bar)
- Quick pickled shrimp
- Roasted asparagus with lemon and thyme aioli
I was excited about the pickled shrimp, as I had some at our friends’ engagement party several years ago and could not stop eating them that night. This recipe that just came out in Bon Appetit was pretty good, although it was a bit too onion-y for Nick. (Personally, the pickling mellowed the onions enough that I enjoyed eating them, but I’m not as sensitive to them as Nick is.) So if you are not an onion person, you might want to cut back a bit. I liked the recipe enough that I’m going to make it again and play around with the flavors. The best part is that the only heat required is boiling the shrimp for about two minutes, so this is a great summer recipe when you’re trying to avoid the stove.
Make sure that when you pull the shrimp out of the boiling water, immediately drain them and run them under cold water. Otherwise they will continue to cook a bit. As I was peeling the shrimp, I noticed a couple must have missed the stream of cold water and were still warm- I’m guessing those were the few that ended up tasting a bit overcooked. (Most of them were fine, though.)
The original shrimp recipe suggests serving the shrimp on toasted ciabatta with mayonnaise. Since bread and mayo were already in other parts of the menu, I skipped them here. But if you choose to do that, probably a good idea to remove the tails when you shell the shrimp.
The roasted asparagus and aioli comes from a 2010 Bon Appetit recipe that Nick and I used quite a bit that summer. The first time I made it, I attempted to roast the baby artichokes in addition to the asparagus, but since then I’ve leaned towards the no-fuss prep of the asparagus. I always use thyme instead of oregano, since we are more likely to have it growing outside. The aioli, by the way, is just as delicious with potatoes cooked in duck fat. Just figured I’d throw that out there.
Quick-Pickled Shrimp (adapted from the May 2013 Bon Appetit)
serves 4 as an appetizer, or 2 as part of a Friday night dinner spread
1 pound shell-on shrimp
1/2 medium fennel bulb, thinly sliced (a mandoline works well, here)
1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced (again, mandoline)
2 garlic cloves, thinly slice (yeah, no mandoline for this- I like my fingers)
1/2 Fresno chile or red jalapeno, thinly sliced and seeded (I used a whole Fresno chile)
1/2 cup lemon juice (about 3 lemons’ worth)
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fennel fronds
Boil a large pot of salted water, and cook shrimp until just opaque, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Peel and devein shrimp.
Combine shrimp with fennel (both bulb and frond), onion, garlic, chile, lemon juice, vinegar, and oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Let sit for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Shrimp can be made up to 2 days in advance, covered and chilled.
Roasted Asparagus with Lemon-Thyme Aioli (adapted from the June 2010 Bon Appetit)
Chop 1 teaspoon fresh thyme and add to small bowl. Add 1 small garlic clove, pressed. Grate about 1/4 teaspoon lemon peel and add to bowl, along with 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice (or a bit more, if you like things lemony). Whisk in 1/2 cup mayonnaise and 1/2 tablespoon olive oil (if you have an herb-infused olive oil, that would work nicely here). Season aioli with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 425. Trim the tough ends off of 1 bunch of asparagus and arrange asparagus on a rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast until asparagus is tender-crisp, between 5-8 minutes, depending on the thickness.
Serve asparagus with aioli for dipping. Aioli will keep, covered and chilled, for two days.