Serves: Makes 6 to 8 servings
- 4 cups water
- ½ cup coarsely chopped celery leaves
- ¼ cup pickling spice
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 2½ pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- ½ large sweet onion, thinly sliced
- 6 dried bay leaves
- 1 head butter lettuce, trimmed, rinsed, and dried
- 12 caperberries, halved
- 1½ cups vegetable oil
- ¾ cup white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup nonpareil capers, plus 2 tablespoons of their brine
- 2½ teaspoons celery seeds
- 1 teaspoon salt
Procedures:I like to leave the tail end of the shell on when peeling shrimp for this recipe, providing a little “handle” for guests to use when eating the pickled shrimp. For a more casual buffet service, arrange the drained shrimp on a decorative platter with fresh herb sprigs around for garnish. Capers—I prefer the tiny nonpareil type—are the pickled flower buds of a bush native to the Mediterranean. Caper berries, which I use to garnish this dish, are the fruit that is formed on the same bush, also pickled.
- Combine the water, celery leaves, pickling spice, and salt in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp, decrease the heat to medium, and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 4 minutes, or just until the shrimp are evenly pink and cooked through. Drain the shrimp.
- Choose a nonreactive bowl just large enough to hold the shrimp and onion with a little spare room. Place half of the still-warm shrimp (with the celery and spices) in the bowl, top with half the onion and half the bay leaves; repeat with a layer of the remaining shrimp, onion, and bay leaves.
- For the marinade, whisk together the oil, vinegar, capers and brine, celery seeds, and salt in a small bowl until the salt is dissolved. Pour the marinade slowly over the shrimp. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, gently stirring the ingredients once or twice. Drain the shrimp just before serving (reserve the marinade), shaking off any spices or celery that cling to them and discarding the bay leaves.
- Arrange a couple leaves of the butter lettuce on each plate, cupped-side up. Spoon the marinated shrimp (with some of the onion and capers) into the lettuce cups and set a few of the caperberry halves alongside. Drizzle some of the marinade over and serve.