I made this pickled shrimp recipe from Saveur magazine at least four times over the past few weeks, and I’m sure they’ll keep finding their way into my menu planning throughout the spring and summer months, too. My family always serves shrimp on Christmas Eve, and this works well as an elegant holiday appetizer. I could also see it being a convenient and portable snack for Super Bowl parties. I’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon a few new recipes this fall that will make their way into my repertoire, but I’m kind of surprised that this is one of them. For one, the shrimps are marinated overnight, so it’s not the kind of dish that can be a last-minute menu idea. But each time I’ve made it and brought it to parties or dinners, it’s gotten rave reviews.
Secondly, the recipe calls for cooking the shrimp in Old Bay seasoning. After an October trip to Baltimore to visit my sister where we ate a bucket of crabs doused in Old Bay seasoning, I figured out I’m not a huge fan of Old Bay as a stand-alone seasoning for seafood. The crabs were caked in the stuff, and I was hesitant to revisit the same spice profile, afraid that it would be once again a bit overwhelming.
Fortunately, I did give the recipe a try and the flavor was phenomenal. The shrimp gets boiled in Old Bay, but then it is marinated overnight with a host of other spices and ingredients, which lends a crisp, bright flavor to the pickled shrimp. When pouring the marinade over the shrimp in the jar, there wasn’t quite enough liquid to completely submerge all the shrimp, so I added a bit more olive oil and a few Tablespoons of red wine vinegar. I think the acidity of the vinegar, along with the lemon juice already in the marinade, really helped add some brightness to the dish.
I did make a few changes to simplify the recipe a bit. For my first stab at the recipe, I tried grinding the celery seeds in a spice grinder, but they just whipped around endlessly without actually grinding, yet they still added nice flavor to the marinade. In subsequent renditions, I skipped the grinding step altogether. Same goes for the allspice berries. I didn’t have any whole berries on hand, so I simply used about 1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice. That also seemed to work well. And finally, as I mentioned above, added about 2 Tablespoons of red wine vinegar to the marinade. Another tip for cooking: I found that the shrimp didn’t require the full 2 minutes to cook through. I removed my shrimp from the boiling water after a minute and a half. Overcooking the shrimp tends to make it chewier and mushy, and you lose the brilliance of the crisp, clean flavors of the marinade.
2 tbsp. Old Bay seasoning (or other brand of seafood seasoning)
1 lb. (26–30 count) medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
½ tsp. celery seeds
1/8 tsp. allspice
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil (plus more if needed to fully submerge the shrimp)
⅓ cup fresh lemon juice
2 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. crushed red chili flakes
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
12 dried bay leaves
½ medium yellow onion, thinly sliced lengthwise
1. Bring a large pot of water + Old Bay seasoning to a boil over medium heat. Reduce the heat to low and add the shrimp, cooking just until they turn pink, about 1 ½ minutes. Drain and transfer to bowl of ice water to stop the cooking processes.
2. In a 2-cup measuring cup (or any small to medium-sized bowl with a spout), combine the olive oil, lemon juice, celery seed, allspice, vinegar, parsley, salt, chili flakes, and garlic.
3. Clean a 1-qt. glass jar (I used a spaghetti sauce jar – just make sure the mouth is wide enough to let the shrimp in and out easily). Drain the shrimp and layer the shrimp, onions, and bay leaves in the glass jar. Pour the olive oil marinade mixture over the shrimp. Cover with lid; chill overnight before serving.