Mayo, lemon, tarragon, shrimp. Sign me the fuck up, please and thank you. What more is there to say? Seafood, fat and flavor; it doesn’t get much better.
Why a shrimp roll and not a lobster roll, you ask? I could eat a lobster roll every day; nay, twice a day! The buttery roll and the sweet lobster create the best food porn for the eyes and the tongue. Simple flavors create something more than simple; something sinful. Alas, the wallet can’t bank roll a lobster twice a day or everyday.
To appease my bank account and my belly, a substitute for lobster had to be found. The most obvious answer was to buy half a lobster but no dice. The second most obvious answer was shrimp – it’s basically a baby lobster. While shrimp may not be lobster or baby lobster, I can live with this substitution, as can the wallet.
Members of the crustacean family, you might think shrimp and lobster taste the same. Don’t be fooled. They’re related but not the same. One’s big, and one’s small. Each offers the taste buds a different experience. Lobster: light, sweet and rich; shrimp: buttery and mildly sweet.
Shrimp are a wonder. Their weird little legs aren’t used for walking, only standing. While they can’t walk, they can dance. Some species wave their antennae and shake their shellfish ass to attract fish to play with or eat or both. Odd but I can dig it. Their spunk contributes to their tastiness. Not only are shrimp tasty but they’re also healthy-ish. Seven medium-sized shrimp have 18 grams of protein, only one gram of fat and are a mere 84 calories. That’s almost half the recommended protein for a day and hardly any fat, in my humble opinion. A bit high in cholesterol, they still provide healthy amounts of vitamin D, B3, B12, and their pretty pink color has been shown to be an antioxidant in some studies. Weird, tasty and healthy-ish.
Channeling shrimp’s three key attributes weird, tasty and healthy-ish into a meal is not hard. First, weird. While I really, really want shrimp to have a huge personality to contrast their small stature, it’s a wish and only that. I shall stop anthropomorphizing them. Sigh. Second and third, tasty and healthy-ish. Turning something inherently tasty into a mouthwatering, shut-the-front-door kind of dish is doable. And, healthy-ish just sells itself. Harnessing shrimp’s attributes, we attempt to make a dish both delightful and delicious. To do so a couple of key steps must be taken.
DO NOT OVERCOOK THE SHRIMP. No one wants to eat a rubber band, and no one wants to eat rubbery shrimp. Don’t do it. Don’t let your inner voice tell you to keep cooking the little buggers. Once they’re done, they’re done. And shrimp are done, or cooked, in 2-3 minutes. That’s it.
For shrimp roll shrimp, a quick dip in hot, barely boiling, salted water will do. It’s like a sauna for the shrimp – a nice day at the spa before they get eaten. After a cool shower and a towel dry, it’s time to flavor these bitches.
PICK THE RIGHT PAIRING. Shallot, mayo, lemon, white wine vinegar, tarragon; zip, savory, zing, more zing and licoricey sweet. Paired with the shrimp, these ingredients will set off flavor fireworks. Each is a classic seafood flavor accessory, and, like a good piece of jewelry, they enhance the total package and don’t distract from the whole. Combined with a sweet and buttery brioche roll, our would-be roll doesn’t get much better. Dare, I say it, lobster rolls pale in comparison. Sweet, spicy, sour and umami; creamy, crunchy and soft.
Shrimp are solitary creatures. In their honor, I believe it would be appropriate to eat this shrimp roll alone, in a dark room with no one watching so you can savor every bite and eat three or four of them without judgment. You’ll want to eat three or four of them, believe me, I did.
Lip smacking shrimp rolls put lobster rolls to shame.
- 1.5 lb fresh or frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined, defrosted if using frozen
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2 tsp white vinegar
- 1 tsp ground tarragon (can substitute fresh)
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- ¾ tsp salt
- Ground pepper
- 4 Butter or brioche rolls
- Bring a saucepan of water to a shimmer. Generously salt.
- Add the shrimp to the barely boiling water and cook until pink and curled. Approximately 2-3 minutes.
- Drain the shrimp and towel dry.
- Chop cooked shrimp into bites pieces and place in medium sized bowl.
- Add mayonnaise, lemon juice and zest, vinegar, tarragon, salt and pepper to bowl containing shrimp. Mix well. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to eat.
- Toast butter or brioche rolls.
- Pile shrimp into rolls and EAT!