The bold flavors in this Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp recipe are so fresh and intense, an encore performance will inevitably be required.
With much gratitude and appreciation, this recipe modified slightly from the original, courtesy of our friends at Edmund’s Oast Restaurant in Charleston, South Carolina!
All images and text ©Jenny DeRemer for Not Entirely Average, LLC
A Recipe for Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp
Shrimp recipes abound here in the Holy City. Heck, there’s even an annual event held each spring in the harbor called The Blessing of The Fleet.
It’s a full day celebration whereby shrimp trawlers, their captains, and crew parade up and down shorelines while being blessed by priests, rabbis, and beenyas. Then there’s somebody like me who shows up early to cheer the boats on because hey, like the natives, I can’t get enough of the tiny pink sea creatures they catch.
To “Bless the Fleet” is to pray for the safety of captain and crew, as well as a healthy harvesting of native shrimp off our beautiful Carolina coast. And because I know I will be asked, what’s a Beenya?
Beenya is a Gullah term for “been here,” or somebody who is native to the Lowcountry of South Carolina. Me? I’m a Comeya…
Do You Have What’s Needed to Make This Recipe for Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp? Check The List!
for the Pickled Spiced Shrimp
- fresh shrimp (raw shrimp peeled, halved lengthwise, and deveined)
- Old Bay Seasoning
- fresh lemon zest
- red pepper flakes
for the Pickled Vegetables
- red onion
- celery stalks
- fresh carrots
- fennel bulb with fronds
- hot red pepper
- fresh lemon juice
- Champagne vinegar
- olive oil
- celery seed
- fish sauce
for the Aioli Rye Toast
- rye bread slices
- unsalted butter
- sherry vinegar
- garlic powder (NOT garlic salt)
- freshly torn Italian parsley leaves, dill, and fennel fronds
How This Recipe Came About…
Edmund’s Oast Brewery is among my most favorite haunts. It self-describes on its website that it is “a trifecta of gustatory delights based in Charleston, South Carolina.” I’d probably add to that the word ‘perfect’ somewhere in there.
Their menu features (they briefly retired it in 2017 to the dismay of the world so now it’s back) what I consider to be a truly perfect food, pickled shrimp. Doesn’t sound exciting? Well, allow me to describe…
In-house rye bread that is grilled before being lathered with a house made sherry aioli, heaped with crunchy onion, celery, carrot, fennel, and red bell pepper that have been pickled in a lovely Champagne vinegar and celery seed brine. There’s more…
All of this crunchy loveliness is introduced to locally sourced shrimp, poached in a bath of lemon zest and Old Bay Seasoning. In my at-home version of this masterpiece of the South, I toss red pepper flakes into the poaching liquid, just to keep things interesting!
In a nutshell, glass of white or Rose in hand, this is my version of healthy eating. Not perfect eating, rather an easy recipe that sustains me for a week with next to no cooking time or tricky preparation.
To sum things up, this recipe came about based on how heavily the gastronomy at Edmund’s Oast has influenced my cookery at home. Another way of putting it…everything else is total amateur hour next to them. For real.
Does Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp Need to Be Eaten with Bread?
The closest thing I can use to describe this dish is to ‘liken it to’ avocado toast. Here’s the thing though; a recipe for Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp makes made avocado toast look slapdash and crude.
So getting back to the rye. The answer is no, but with a caveat. If you are forgoing the bread, you’re likely skipping the aioli and definitely skipping the butter used to grill the bread.
Both of these elements MAKE THIS DISH. That said, thinning the aioli with a little less mayonnaise makes it just viscous enough to use as a dressing.
The marriage of pickled spiced shrimp and these beautifully crunchy brined vegetables make for a wonderfully filling plated salad.
Simple ingredients finished with a thinner version of the aioli, and it’s a main course salad and quick dinner for busy weeknights or any night of the week.
Can I Use Frozen Vegetables in This Recipe?
ONLY because I know I’ll be asked this question, am I responding to it now…
Fresh, fresh, FRESH.
What Is the Easiest Way to Prep the Vegetables for This Recipe?
I use a mandolin. That said, if you’ve got time, a very steady hand, and a sharp chef’s knife, you can slice everything by hand.
The reason I love a mandolin for tasks like this is because the vegetables are a third of the dish. It’s so important to get them correct, and the more uniform they can be sliced, the quicker they will pickle and the prettier they will adorn the toast.
The end result, no matter how you slice/shave these, is that you are going for thin and uniform.
How Long Does It Take for Shrimp to Pickle?
I don’t know how long the chef’s at EO pickle their shrimp for. I never asked. I’m there enough that for reference, I should.
I’ve experimented enough however that I know I like 12 hours in the brine, 9 hours minimum. Once in the brine and packed tightly into an airtight container or glass canning jar, the shrimp keep well refrigerated for up to one week.
I use a giant old glass lidded soup jar that houses about one pound of shrimp plus the lovely vegetables.
They simply sit in my fridge waiting for those easy dinners on weekends, or the weeknight dinners I have no energy to crank out.
What Is in The Spice Mix?
Here is where I dispel rumors involving fancy Cajun seasonings, cayenne pepper or hot sauce, or the need to cook bacon for this recipe. HA! This is soooo basic your eyes are about to roll!
In the end when the shrimp and the veggies meet, no one flavor profile stands out over another. For the shrimp, they are poached, drained, then pickled along with the vegetables using lemon juice, Champaign vinegar, olive oil, and celery seed.
If you want to make this a spicy shrimp recipe, a favorite way to add heat is to add an additional hot pepper of your choice. Leave the seeds intact and slice thin before adding everything to the mix.
So simple and no need to whip out that large skillet for a change. This is especially nice during the spring and summer months when all you have to worry about is chilling a bottle of white wine and deciding on what time to eat!
How To Make Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp?
If you are assembling pickled spiced shrimp for the first time, for the best results, TAKE YOUR TIME! If you have a mandolin and are comfortable using it (mandolins are super sharp, so take heed and go slow with it!) pull it out for this recipe.
Purchase good quality ingredients and I’m not only talking jumbo shrimp here. For fish sauce, I use Red Boat. In fact, if you have ever used Red Boat, you know that fish sauce achieves something that not too many other fermented products can achieve – UMAMI.
In terms of the number of tablespoons seafood seasoning you’d need, go Old Bay and use less versus more. I say this due to the sodium level.
Old Bay is the barometer by which all other Cajun seasonings are measured. Two tablespoons per pound of shrimp to spice is plenty. Remember that heat is by way of red pepper flakes.
Vinegar may not seem like a big deal but when you get into specialty vinegars it’s worth seeking out the best you can. The ‘O’ brand of sherry vinegar is reasonably priced and is available at most US grocery stores.
Once purchased, keep it in a cool, dark pantry and it’ll last you. It’ll also change your perspective on homemade aioli and may just make it your new ‘thing.’
To Poach the Shrimp
The shrimp may be fresh or frozen, but should be raw, peeled (including free of tails), and deveined. Then, with a sharp boning knife, lay each shrimp flat on the surface of your cutting board and carefully halve each lengthwise.
As the halves poach, they also curl up into a corkscrew shape which I love to layer atop the rye and aioli. It’s just pretty and you stretch the shrimp to be able to make additional toasts.
Add 4 quarts of water to a large stock pot. Add in two tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning and the zest of two lemons and bring all to a boil.
Add the shrimp and poach for no more than 2 minutes. Use a spider to skim the shrimp from the water and place shrimp in small bowl to begin to cool.
Note that it is also okay to make your pickling liquid first, then poach your shrimp. Use a spider to skim the shrimp from the water and place hot shrimp directly into the pickling liquid along with the vegetables.
Prepare the Pickling Liquid
Combine fresh lemon juice, Champagne vinegar, olive oil, fish sauce, some celery seed and garlic powder in a large bowl and whisk to incorporate.
Grab a large glass canning jar and to it, begin layering the fresh vegetables and shrimp followed by a bit of the pickling liquid. Repeat layering until all of the shrimp and vegetables are packed into the jar and covered with the liquid.
Put the lid on and shake it like there’s no tomorrow. Place the jar into your refrigerator and chill 9 to 12 hours. I assemble and do it as an overnight brine.
To Assemble This Food of The Gods…
I pull a stick of unsalted butter out of my refrigerator several hours prior to assembling these toasts. It needs to be very, very soft.
Grab some really great seeded rye bread slices and heavily butter them. Brown the buttered sides in a pan on the stove or on a griddle before flipping and finishing them on the reverse. There will be enough butter to adequately brown the bread on both sides once you get going.
In a small bowl, whisk some mayonnaise together with a good quality sherry vinegar and some garlic powder. This is the sherry aioli that you’ll liberally smear on one side of each griddled slice of rye.
Place enough of the shrimp atop the aioli to completely cover the surface. Then add as many pickled vegetables as possible to also cover completely.
This last step is a flavor-boosting pro tip – tear fresh leaves of Italian parsley, sprigs of fresh dill, celery leaves, and a few fronds of the fennel and lightly bunch them atop the toast. Plate the toast and use a chef’s knife to cut in half.
Complete each plate with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of black pepper and serve at room temperature. Eh hem…where is your wine? GET THE WINE!
Modifying The Norm to Make It Not Entirely Average…
I have to be honest when I say that for me, this is it. I want this no other way. But that’s not fair for those who despise rye bread or don’t have any Old Bay on hand.
The truth of it is, use a yellow onion instead of red, use avocado oil in lieu of olive, and any thick crusty bread will absolutely do. The final product is meant to satisfy your eaters, so tailer the little details around them without sacrificing quality.
What to Drink with Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp?
Whenever I hear ‘pickle’ I automatically revert to my tasting notes from a course I took abroad. It was very simple in so many ways to know what to pair, and in other ways, not.
Roussette du Bugey is a lovely French white from Savoy which pairs incredibly well with Raclette. And given Raclette is served with potatoes and pickles, it was interesting to enjoy with and find it perfectly fantastic with Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp.
There is surprisingly a very, very fantastic red option on the wine side of things, too. Red Marcillac is a wine of France from the southwest region. And though it’s best consumed anywhere from 3 to 5 years past its vintage date, it’s fairly easy to find in the States aged.
A Recipe for Charleston Pickled Spiced Shrimp
- large canning jar with tight-fitting lid
- mandolin or sharp knife
- large stock pot
- spider or another slotted spoon
for the pickled vegetables
- 1/2 cup lemon juice from 2 large lemons, both zested and juiced, zest to be reserved for poaching the shrimp
- 1/2 medium red onion sliced thin
- 5 stalks celery with leaves reserved; sliced thin on the diagonal
- 2 large carrots peeled and sliced thin on the diagonal
- 1 medium fennel bulb with fronds reserved; sliced thin on the diagonal
- 1 medium Fresno chili may also use a jalapeño; seeds removed, halved and sliced thin
- 1/2 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 1/2 tablespoons celery seed
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- red pepper flakes to taste
for the poached shrimp
- 1 pound jumbo raw shrimp peeled and deveined and split using a boning knife
- 2 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
- lemon zest reserved from the 2 large, juiced lemons
for the aioli rye toasts
- 8 slices rye bread NOTE: you needn't make all 8 toasts at once, as the pickled shrimp and their vegetables will keep in the refrigerator for a week
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 1 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- Italian parsley leaves, dill, celery leaves, and reserved fennel fronds freshly torn
prepare the pickling liquid
- Combine lemon juice, Champagne vinegar, olive oil, fish sauce, celery seed, and garlic powder in a large bowl and whisk to incorporate. Add the sliced vegetables and give everything a good toss.
poach the shrimp
- Add 4 quarts of water to a large stock pot. Add in two tablespoons of Old Bay seasoning and the zest of two lemons and bring all to a boil. Add the shrimp and poach for no more than 2 minutes. Use a spider to skim the shrimp from the water and place hot shrimp directly into the pickling liquid.
- Spoon everything into a large and clean glass jar making sure all of the shrimp and vegetables are covered with the liquid. Attach the lid tightly. Place into refrigerator to chill for 9 to 12 hours or overnight. NOTE: If you own a wide mouth canning funnel, it makes transferring into the jar much easier.
- About 2 hours prior to serving, remove the jar of pickled shrimp from the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature.
- Heavily butter as many slices of rye bread as you intend to serve. Brown the buttered sides in a pan on the stove or on a griddle before flipping and finishing them on the reverse. There will be enough butter to adequately brown the bread on both sides once you get going.
- In a small bowl, whisk some mayonnaise together with a good quality sherry vinegar and some garlic powder. Liberally smear the aioli on one side of each griddled slice of rye. NOTE: if you would like to enjoy the toasts as finger food, once you've spread with the aioli, use a chef's knife to cut each slice of rye into thirds (or sixths if the slices are ginormous), reassemble, then proceed with adding shrimp and vegetables.
- Place enough of the shrimp atop the aioli to completely cover the surface. Then add as many pickled vegetables as possible to also cover completely. Tear fresh leaves of Italian parsley, sprigs of fresh dill, celery leaves, and a few fronds of the fennel and lightly bunch them atop the toast.
- Complete each plate with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of black pepper and serve at room temperature with plenty of napkins and good wine.
If You Like This Recipe…
…you might also like:
- Garlic Butter Shrimp with Pimento Cheese Grits
- Citrus Shrimp with Louis Sauce – Mardi Gras Louisiana Shrimp Recipes
- Shrimp In Creamy Creole Sauce
- Charleston Shrimp and Grits with Crab Gravy
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