The City Magazine Since 1975

Pickled Shrimp Toast with Harissa Mayonnaise

September 2020
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1 small bulb fennel, halved, cored, and cut crosswise into about 10 slices
1 small carrot, peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds
1 lb. 21/25-count local shrimp, shells on
2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. fennel seed
1/2 tsp. coriander seed
1/4 tsp. cumin seed
1/4 tsp. caraway seed
Pinch red pepper flakes
1 small red onion (about 6 oz.), julienned
1 red bell pepper (about 5 oz.), cored and julienned
1 large clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
1/4 cup crisp, dry white wine
1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves
1 Tbs. kosher salt
2 Tbs. tender celery leaves
2 Tbs. mint leaves
2 Tbs. sunflower sprouts (optional)
Harissa mayonnaise (recipe follows)
Sourdough toast (directions follow)

For the harissa mayonnaise:
1/4 cup crisp, dry white wine
Pinch saffron
1 cup mayonnaise, preferably Duke’s
1 clove garlic, grated on a microplane
3/4 tsp. harissa paste
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the sourdough toast:
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 loaf sourdough bread, sliced into four 1-inch thick pieces  


Chef’s Notes - “This is meant to be a first course or nice rustic lunch. It’s a great dish for entertaining, as it can multiply up to feed a crowd and is best when made well ahead of time.” —Mike Lata

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Make an ice bath in a large bowl with equal parts ice and water. Add the fennel to the boiling water and cook until crisp-tender, one to two minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and transfer to the ice bath. Bring the water back to a boil and repeat this process with the carrot. Once cool, remove the vegetables from the ice bath, drain, and set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and bring the same pot of water to a gentle simmer. Refresh the ice bath with more ice. Poach the shrimp in the gently simmering water until their shells have turned pink and the shrimp are just cooked through, two to four minutes. Immediately transfer them to the ice bath. When cool enough to handle, peel and devein the shrimp. Arrange in the bottom of a large, shallow casserole and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or saucepan. Add the fennel, coriander, cumin, and caraway seeds and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the spices are toasted and fragrant, one to two minutes. Add the red onion, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté for two to three minutes. Stir in the sherry vinegar, white wine, thyme, and salt. Bring to a simmer, then remove from the heat. Stir in the reserved fennel and carrot, then pour over the shrimp. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours or up to eight hours.

For the harissa mayonnaise:
Combine the white wine and saffron in a medium skillet. Simmer over medium heat until the wine is reduced to one tablespoon, about three minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Combine the mayonnaise, grated garlic, and harissa in a bowl and stir together. Stir in the white wine reduction. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 

To serve: Allow the shrimp to come to room temperature. Coat the bottom of a large skillet with some of the olive oil. Working in batches, add slices of the bread and toast them on each side until golden brown. Once cool, slather each slice with a few tablespoons of harissa mayonnaise. Top evenly with the pickled shrimp mixture and garnish with celery leaves, mint, and sunflower sprouts.