The last year and a half has been so crazy busy in my world, I’ve rarely had time to settle into one of my favorite things in the world to do, simple, joyful cooking. The only thing that has that beat, is cooking for friends, which is something I enjoyed doing this weekend. Planning the menu, doing the prep, setting the table, and all the things that go into making a successful meal, set the groove for a happy mood and an enjoyable meal.
Appetizers are the starting point for any meal, and as such, are perhaps one of the most crucial components to set a successful, tasty entertaining stage. I came across some beautiful, fresh local shrimp at the market, and decided to put them to use in appetizers. I liked the idea of shrimp salad – a Southern staple after all – but wanted to keep it super light and sophisticated. So, the mayo and calorie count is really low, and the flavor comes mostly from fresh lime juice and zest, and oodles of finely chopped fresh chives. Instead of bread, I decided to use delicate, crunchy endive leaves to “wrap” the salad into individual bites. It works nicely, but bread will do just fine, too.
For this salad, I roasted the shrimp, a trick I picked up from The Barefoot Contessa’s Ina Garten. Roasting at a high heat takes just minutes and really helps preserve the flavor and the nutrients of the shrimp. The best part about all of this? You can prep the salad the day ahead and scoop the salad into the boats as your guests are arriving, which is exactly how it played out at my house on Sunday night.
These would look beautiful on your Easter or any spring holiday table. Happy holidays and happy cooking!
Elegant Shrimp Salad Boats
(Makes about 12 appetizer servings)
3/4 of a pound fresh, shelled shrimp, de-veined and rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
Generous dash Tabasco Sauce
1 shallot, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lime, finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 lime
3 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 – 2 Belgian endive lettuce heads, trimmed, rinsed, separated and patted dry.
Preheat oven to 425F. Arrange the shrimp on a roasting sheet and toss to coat with the olive oil. Season lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Roast for 3 minutes, or until just opaque and lightly pink. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cool enough to handle, chop the shrimp very finely (see picture). Place the chopped shrimp in a medium bowl and combine with the mayonnaise, Tabasco, chopped shallot, lime zest, lime juice, and chopped chives. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground pepper. (Note: This can be prepared up to one day in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator).
To prep the endives, trim a bit from their root base and remove any tattered, browned outer leaves. The leaves that are inside are a bit sturdier and best for the boats in this recipe. They can also be prepped ahead, but store them in the fridge wrapped in a damp towel. They should not be exposed to open air or they may discolor.
To finish the boats, simply scoop a rounding, heaping tablespoon into the center of each boat. Top with a drizzle of fresh chives, if desired. Arrange prettily on an attractive service plate.