When Louisiana summer heats up, Louisiana food cools down. Seldom does gumbo appear on the home dinner table when temps approach 100ºF and the clamor to escape the stifling heat includes the menu. Ice-cold watermelon, sweet-churned ice cream, syrupy sno balls and pitchers of freshly squeezed lemonade are just a few of the warm-weather tricks that have become backyard family traditions.
One dish that I’ve perfected over the years is a cold sandwich featuring fresh Gulf shrimp. The inspiration for this dish came from my travels in New England. One summer I trekked from New York through Connecticut to Cape Cod and Boston and northward along the eastern seaboard discovering (and dining at) the unique seaside communities that dot the coastline. My culinary epiphany came with that first bite of a perfectly crafted lobster roll in the harbor town of Salem, Massachusetts. It was magical.
The underlying principal of that lobster sandwich is at the heart of this recipe for my Gulf coast version – the Louisiana Shrimp Roll. Simplicity rules – fresh seafood accented with fresh herbs and citrus combined with a light hand on spices and binders. Let the flavor of the sweet shrimp shine through. Mayonnaise is a needed ingredient, but rather than the normal canned tuna or chicken salad tendency to drown everything in a mayo mess, go easy. And watch the added heat, only a pinch of cayenne does the trick to add a bit of intrigue to this sandwich.
On the backyard deck, poolside or at a beach picnic, roll out this easy shrimp sandwich for a cool summer meal.
- 2 tablespoons table salt
- 2 fresh lemons, halved
- 2 pounds small, raw peeled Louisiana shrimp
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- ½ cup finely diced green bell pepper
- 4 tablespoons diced green onion tops
- 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt
- 4 buns
- 4 large fresh lettuce leaves
- In a large pot half filled with water over high heat, add the salt. Squeeze the lemon halves into the water. Bring to a boil and add the shrimp. Stir the shrimp and let return to a boil. Turn off the heat and let sit for 3 minutes. Test one of the larger shrimp for doneness. If fully cooked, drain the shrimp and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Move the shrimp to a covered container and refrigerate.
- In a large mixing bowl, add the mayonnaise. Add the celery, bell pepper, green onion tops, cilantro, thyme, and mint. Stir to combine. Add the cayenne, black pepper, and lemon juice. Stir to combine. Add salt to taste.
- Add the shrimp to the mixture and stir to combine thoroughly. Taste again and adjust any ingredient to your desired taste and texture. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or longer.
- For serving, line the four buns with a lettuce leaf and pile on a generous portion of the shrimp salad. Serve cold with chilled white wine or a pitcher of iced tea.
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