We're winding down to the end of October, which in Alabama means the trees are just reluctantly beginning to turn, the temperature is like a tricky faucet that runs variously a few degrees too cool or too hot, and although the tall boots and sweaters are everywhere you look, and the specter of Halloween and pumpkins and hay bales looms (not to mention the retailers already stocking Christmas foofaraw), it's pretty still decidedly late summer in the Deep South.
Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.
Because I decided, apropos of pretty much nothing, that a great idea would be to make for dinner last night that most classic of summer sandwiches: the lobster roll.
Except I don't like lobster.
So shrimp roll, it is! A few days prior I invested in a bag of frozen shrimp with which to make spicy shrimp and peanut noodles—Instagrammed here:
and I just knew that once that bag was open those little leftover guys were going to go freezer-burned pretty quickly if I didn't find good uses for them.
I was a little skeptical about the frozen shrimp; I don't as a rule have anywhere near the patience required to properly thaw things, and I've tried quick-thawing with mixed results. (See above re: patience.) But these were petite shrimp, so they defrosted fairly quickly, and it was pretty great to have them already peeled and deveined for my lazy pleasure.
I will make no bones here: This is simplicity in sandwich form. I sautéed the shrimp in chili oil to have a hint of heat in the background, but it's not necessary; you can add a little more black pepper or even a few dashes of hot sauce to the dressing, if you like. Use whatever fat you choose sparingly in any case, because a drier pan will help you achieve a nice brown crust on the outside of the shrimp.
Any bread of your choice will work here. I picked a wheat grinder roll, cut the top off, and scooped out the middle to make room for the good stuff. Wheat is by no means a game-changer; my mama always told me wheat > white, and old habits die hard even when I know "wheat" on the bag of bread means just about nothing nutritionally anymore.
In today's Do As I Say, Not As I Do lesson, mix up the shrimp salad before adding the lemon juice. Depending on the moisture from the shrimp and the tomatoes, too much juice can make the mixture a little watery. If you achieve the consistence you like and want more tart lemoniness, stir in a little zest.
The celery leaves were an abstract idea I had noodling around in my head; I wasn't sure I wanted the texture of the celery stalk itself, but I liked the idea of the flavor, and of course the fresh green color for garnish. In the end it turned out to really change the character of the dish in a remarkable and lovely way. I would by no means advocate thinking that buying an entire bunch of celery (seriously, why must I purchase so much at a time?) is necessary for this dish, but if you have some lapsing in your refrigerator, as I did, this is a terrific way to use it.
Late-summer Shrimp Rolls
1 teaspoon chili oil
16 (41-50 count) frozen peeled and deveined shrimp, thawed
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
½ medium tomato, finely chopped
½ shallot, minced
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 grinder or sub rolls, tops and insides removed
4 Bibb lettuce leaves
Celery leaves (optional)
1. Heat oil in a medium skillet over medium heat; add shrimp, and cook 2 minutes on one side or until golden brown. Flip shrimp, and cook 1 more minute or until golden brown on second side; remove from pan to cool slightly. When cooled, chop each shrimp into 4 even pieces.
2. Stir together mayonnaise and next 3 ingredients; gently fold in shrimp. Stir in lemon juice until desired consistency. Chill 15 minutes.
3. Line each roll with 2 pieces Bibb lettuce. Top with shrimp salad and celery leaves, if desired. Makes 2 servings.