Serving shellfish often comes down to how long you can keep it cold before setting it out and letting the masses devour it. In the past, I’ve tried to set up food on a bed of ice, but that always ended up messy and melty and not worth the effort. Over time, I learned that the key is being able to make a bunch of components ahead of time that can hang out in the fridge until you’re ready to compose and put them all together.
That’s sort of the beauty of this shrimp on avocado mousse and lightly pickled cucumber with apple salad (what a name!). The shrimp is cooked—poached—so it doesn’t necessarily have to be served the day-of. You can prepare it a day or two in advance at your leisure and then put it together at the 11th hour, let it chill in the fridge until the 12th hour—and then you come out looking like a hero without a large amount of stress!
This dish is also healthy! At parties, it’s easy for stuff to be carb-y so it’s always a good idea to offer up an alternative.
- Poached shrimp and apple salad
- 1 lb shrimp (25-30 count), peeled and deveined
- shrimp shells (that you peeled)
- 1 lime
- 2 cups of water in a small pan with 2 tbsp salt added
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 1 shallot, finely diced
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 Fuji (or similar) apple; you want to aim for a crisp apple that’s not-too-tart and not-too-mealy; cored and diced cleanly, uniformly, and finely, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch in size. You don’t have to peel the apple if you don’t want. I liked the red skin showing.
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
- Chives (as a garnish; optional)
- Avocado mousse
- 1 ripe avocado, de-seeded and spooned out of its peel
- 1/3 cup sour cream
- 1 1/4 tsp salt
- 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
- 1 lime
- Lightly pickled cucumber
- 2 slicing/”regular” cucumbers (about 15-inches, enough to cut out 30 medallions that are 1/2-inch)
- 1/2 cup white vinegar
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 cup water
- In a small sauce pan, heat up the water with the salt added over high heat. Add the shrimp shells and let it come to a rolling boil.
- Once it’s boiling, turn off and take it off the heat. Off of heat, add in all of the shrimp (which should be cold, but not partially frozen). The residual heat from the water should gently poach the shrimp and the cold temperature of the shrimp should temper the water and stop the cooking at a point.
- After about five minutes, drain the shrimp (and reserve the shrimp broth for another recipe!).
- Add the warm shrimp to a medium mixing bowl (or storage-ware, if you’re making this ahead of time). Add in the diced apple, olive oil, diced garlic, shallot, 3/4 tsp of salt, black pepper, and the juice of 1 lime. Give it a light toss to mix in the ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to compose and serve.
- In a medium bowl, add avocado, sour cream, salt, garlic, and the juice from one lime.
- Blend with a hand mixer until the mixture is well incorporated and turns a light green color.
- Cover and store in the fridge until you’re ready to compose and serve.
- Cut the cucumber into medallions that are just shy of 1/2 inch in width. Aim for about 30.
- In a container large enough to hold the cucumbers and the pickling liquid (such as a baking dish or a large glass jar), add in the vinegar, water, and salt. Stir it until the salt mostly dissolves.
- Pack in the cucumbers and try to fully submerge them in the liquid. Let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour before transferring to the fridge where you can hold it up to 2 days.
- Drain the pickling liquid from the cucumbers. Don’t rinse the cucumbers with water.
- Lay them out on the final serving platter or however you want. Basically, they won’t be moving very much after this point so you have to compose them in their almost-final resting place.
- Spoon about a tablespoon or a tablespoon and a half of mousse over each medallion (if you have mousse leftover, eat it with potato or tortilla chips!).
- Give the shrimp and apple salad a quick toss to get the dressing all over the bits again. Then, top the mousse with a whole shrimp.
- Spoon some apple salad and a little bit of dressing over the shrimp.
- Garnish with sprigs of chive, if you want.
- The composed dish can be refrigerated for about an hour or two before serving.
I like hard acid with seafood. I just think it tastes great. It wasn’t until my first visit to Red Lobster when I was a kid that I discovered that some people eat seafood and shellfish with LOTS of butter. Up until that point, I grew up eating shellfish dipped in lime juice and black pepper. To me, butter blunts the flavor of shellfish—it’s basically gilding the lily for me—whereas acid brings out its natural sweetness and brininess.
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