Shrimp rolls bring the beach home

Leah Eskin
Chicago Tribune

The deep dive promises sunken treasure, brilliant coral and the odd octopus. Sights we’re keen to see.

This dive is promoted in the staff meeting, book review and playbill. And yet, no octopus.

We show up to the conference room, bookstore or theater only to catch shade on the wetsuit. In the dull discussion, brief history or upbeat musical that ensues, no one even gets damp.

Disappointed, we flop our flippers to the grocery store and net a pound of shrimp. We steam them fragrant in cloves and bay leaf and fold them into a seaside sandwich. It tastes of salt air and summer sunshine.

Not deep, perhaps, but way more satisfying than that absent octopus.

Beach Shack Shrimp Rolls

Prep: 45 minutes

Cook: 3 minutes

Chill: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

11/2 pounds medium shrimp in their shells

2 tablespoons pickling spice

3/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions

Finely grated zest of half a lemon

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

8 long potato rolls (split-top or standard hot-dog style)

Devein: Using kitchen scissors, cut shrimp shells along the curve of the back and, working under cool running water, rinse away the dark “vein” (digestive track). Now shrimp are clean but secure in their protective shells.

Set up: Find your steamer pot or improvise with a large lidded pot and a colander that fits inside. Fill pot with cold water to a depth of 1 inch. Check that the basket clears the water. (The goal is to steam, not boil, the shrimp.) Remove steamer basket or colander.

Steam: Stir pickling spice into the water. Bring to a boil. Place shrimp in basket; carefully lower basket into pot. Cover, reduce heat a bit and let shrimp steam until pink and curled, about 3 minutes. Pull out basket. Tumble shrimp into a shallow bowl and chill — still in their shells — until cool, about 45 minutes.

Peel: Pull off shells, and cut shrimp into bite-size chunks.

Mix: In a large bowl, stir together mayo, basil, scallions and zest. Slide in shrimp; mix gently with a soft spatula. Season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.

Build: If you like, warm buns in a 250-degree oven for 5 minutes. Open buns, fill with shrimp salad. Close and munch.

Provenance: Adapted from a recipe by my friend Rachel Eisler, who concocted it while on a fantasy beach vacation.