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Katie Meadow

Pickled Shrimp

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I love the idea of pickled shrimp. You can buy it and make it a day ahead of serving. It seems like a great addition to many appetizer menus (especially if cheese sticks are present!) People like shrimp. I've tried quite a few recipes, but the shrimp always ends up dense and rubbery. All recipes start by pre-cooking the shrimp if only for a couple of minutes below a simmer. Then the shrimp take an acidic bath that seems to cook them further. Is there a way to make pickled shrimp that renders them tender and fresh tasting? Can you NOT pre-cook them and just let the lemon juice cook them as with ceviche?

Last night I tried the recipe in last Sunday's NYT magazine. My husband and a friend ate them all up and claimed to like them very much. I thought they were tough and disappointing. It's not like I don't like shrimp, and I am buying wild caught good quality critters. Maybe I simply don't like them pickled?

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How would pickled shrimp be different than shrimp ceviche?  Shrimp cured in acid is shrimp cured in acid... Pickling seems to imply a longer bath in the acid... which may be responsible for the "overcooked" toughness you don't like?


Edited by cdh (log)

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I think cdh is onto something. In my experience, shrimp gets tougher as it marinates in acid (a) longer and/or (b) at a lower pH. You should be able to pickle those shrimp enough without pre-cooking. Freeze and thaw them first, if they haven't already been frozen, to kill any parasites they might be carrying.

I'd love to see the recipe you used, but can't find anything recent in the NYT Magazine site. Can you post a link?

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Any pickled shrimp I've had has always been on the chewy end of the shrimp spectrum. I think it just comes with the preparation method. You could do a carefully timed acid bath that doesn't allow them to reach that point but then I'd say you were just making the shrimp ceviche you mentioned, not pickled shrimp.

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I think cdh is onto something. In my experience, shrimp gets tougher as it marinates in acid (a) longer and/or (b) at a lower pH. You should be able to pickle those shrimp enough without pre-cooking. Freeze and thaw them first, if they haven't already been frozen, to kill any parasites they might be carrying.

I'd love to see the recipe you used, but can't find anything recent in the NYT Magazine site. Can you post a link?

 

It's the same article as this one discussed on the "Traditions" subforum here on eG:

http://forums.egullet.org/topic/151869-learning-from-old-recipes-ny-times-article/


Edited by huiray (log)
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I'm sure others here know the answer to this question --- does it make a difference if one brines the raw shrimp first, before cooking and pickling (or simply going into a ceviche with the shrimp); or by doing the "alkaline treatment" first (classic Chinese technique) to make the shrimp plump and crunchy when cooked - either by soaking in plain cold tap water under a running tap (tap water is frequently somewhere towards pH8-9) or treating with baking soda just to the point or before of it falling apart then rinsing thoroughly?

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Having approached the issue from both the ceviche side, and the blanch and pickle side, I can say that I agree with Katie, in that they're always rubbery, somehow. I've not tried the alkaline method, though, but will soon. Could anyone give me a quick summary thereof?

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http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/03/spanish-style-garlic-shrimp-gambas-al-ajillo.html

Thanks, Huiray, the shrimp w/baking soda led me to this article, which has some very surprising things to say about head on shrimp vs beheaded. The whole discussion of crunchy Chinese shrimp is also very interesting. The truth is I don't like messing with raw shrimp, and when it ends up being mushy it's not worth the effort.

Thanks to all who responded. I am becoming convinced that the issue really seems to be that traditional pickled shrimp are, by nature, as Tri2Cook notes, kind of rubbery; that it comes with the territory. I feel better already! I might try one more time, doing an even briefer pre-cook and a shorter time in the lemon/vinegar solution. Although if that means buying them the morning of, that could be a deal-breaker.

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One of my specialty dishes when I first began entertaining over 40 years ago was pickled shrimp. I love it and my guests did too back then.

My shrimp had to be imported to the Yukon from Vancouver's china town in those days - by my mother-in-law whenever she went on vacation 'outside' (the Yukon) so they were frozen and were of a middling size - but for us they were a rare treat. The recipe I first used was from Great Dinners from Life I think. I still fondly remember that 'appetizer' and crave it from time to time - but I am not sure I would waste fresh local jumbo shrimp on it either.

Pickled shrimp is very different from cerviche because the shrimp are first cooked and then marinated. My method was simply to blanch (well, don't overly cook it, in boiling water with whole pickling spices) the shrimp and then layer it in a (pottery) casserole with oil, a little bit of vinegar (not red) and thin lemon slices, a bay leaf or two and whatever spices are still clinging to them. Chill for a few hours and serve.

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I use my mother's recipe and people love them.  I think the trick is to not marinate the shrimp for too long. I use steamed shrimp and marinate them them for 4 - 6 hours.  The onions that come out of the bag are almost as good as the shrimp.  I've seen recipes that call for much longer and that makes them toughen.  We have a friend who's mother's recipe marinates them for a WEEK!  Besides the off putting notion of eating week old shrimp, they have the texture of tire rubber.

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