The air conditioner can’t seem to keep up with the 106 degree heat index. I suffer through this every year just to enjoy the rest of what I love about our fair city. Hesitant to crank up the stove or oven, I cast myself from the intensity of an active kitchen, only to endure the scorching temps of the backyard grill and the fading (but still oppressive) sun. For this endurance, I am more likely to sleep in cooler environs than otherwise.
The next four to six weeks, or perhaps more, are filled with me cursing the sun. I’ll use phrases like, “Anywhere but here, Lord,” and the occasional, “Canada is calling,” but I’ll stay in my place. My complaints will be plenty, but will carry no more weight than the standard barber shop chatter you might even be hearing as you read this. I could easily be that old timer bemoaning rainfall, impending hurricanes and outrageous humidity, which, as he would be quick to remind, isn’t an issue for his cousin who spent the last 20 years living on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This man would surely manage to punctuate his soliloquy with unrequested political accents and sports references.
You know the guy I’m talking about. I’m not that guy. Yet.
My kitchen is on hold as far as heat goes. I’m trying to give the ol’ A/C unit as much help as I can. I fire up the kettle for a pour over in the morning and limit the range or oven for quick boils, sautés or light roasting. We’ve had salad almost every day this week. Our sides have been mostly cold with lots of fresh beeliner snapper throats and more as grilled entrees begging for less hearty accompaniments. Cheese boards with cold meats and salty olives are sweetened with good bread made elsewhere and candied nuts from the store. I’m not ashamed to share store-bought potato salad.
We are doing great at consuming what the Gulf and local grocers provide, supplementing it with our meager herb garden. I don’t have room for veggies in my yard, but I am fortunate to have friends who do. This keeps us eating with the seasons, somewhat, as the generosity of my friends and colleagues finds its way to our table. I hope to repay the favor.
This week I decided to renew my pickled shrimp recipe and continue the trend of cooling off the kitchen. I’ve written about them in the past, but there are so many subtle differences that I’ll tweak it every now and again. I prepared these for a dinner party, my only error being a miscalculation in marinating time. Of course, the leftovers were better the next day, as usual with anything “pickled,” but my initial efforts were still met with acclaim.
This is an extremely simple recipe. Everything, save the shrimp, was in my pantry. If the idea of pickling scares you, definitely follow through with this and your anxieties will be relieved. It’s not like canning or pickling in the classic sense. Pickled shrimp is a largely Southern dish with very few steps. The most difficult part of the recipe is peeling the shrimp, and with your heat pump in overdrive, don’t forget to use the shells to make stock for the freezer.
You could use any onion you wish, but while Vidalias are here, why use anything else? Whites and reds would still be fine. Other than onion choice, there are not a lot of variations on this theme. Prove me wrong. I’d love to hear from you. Maybe your choice of oil is different, but I’ve been using canola oil for most of my gumbos. Canola is also part of the original West Indies salad recipe, so we’ve got that going for us.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Noble South has some of the best pickled shrimp in Mobile. Across the bay you may find another great version at Fairhope’s Hope Farm.
1 pound peeled gulf shrimp, tails on
Salt for water
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
4 bay leaves
3 cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
1/4 cup capers
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
In a large pot boil 3 quarts of salted water. Add shrimp and cook for two minutes. Drain and rinse shrimp in cold water to cease the cooking.
Combine apple cider vinegar, canola oil, bay leaves, garlic and capers in a bowl. Mix well.
In a glass serving dish, create a layer of onions and top with shrimp. Season with salt and Old Bay. Pour the vinegar mixture over the shrimp and top with a layer of lemons.
Cover and chill for 24 hours or more. Serve cold as a side or appetizer.
The preferred eating method is with plain saltine crackers. I wouldn’t turn down a tortilla chip with a pickled shrimp, either. Make more than you need and consider putting them on a salad or a sandwich. I can’t get enough of them. Especially when I’m needing to cool off.
Stay safe out there. Shut the door. You’re letting out the “bought” air!
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