One of my favorite appetizers to make is pickled shrimp. I typically serve them from a shallow glass jar with toothpicks but decided to turn them into a one-bite canapé by serving them atop toast rounds with mashed avocado. They're a great combination of flavors and textures, with the creamy avocado providing the perfect base for the citrusy-pickled shrimp. My pickled shrimp recipe is a mish-mash of favorite elements from Robert Stehling of the fabulous Hominy Grill in Charleston, SC and The Lee Brothers, plus my own additions. I’ve tinkered a lot with it over time, finding a base of equal parts lemon, orange and grapefruit juice to be my favorite. I prefer to omit vinegar and sugar from the mix to let the bright citrus flavors shine.
To make pickled shrimp:
To a large pot of water, add Old Bay seasoning. (I find a ratio of 2 T Old Bay to 1/2 gallon of water works well.) Cover and bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook for about 1 minute. The shrimp will be pinkish-orange and will start to curl. Drain shrimp and lay in a single layer on a sheet pan or plate until they cool to room temperature. The shrimp won’t be fully cooked at this point, which is fine, because they’ll continue to cook in the marinade.
In a bowl or sealable plastic bag, combine citrus juices and orange zest, shallot, garlic, bay leaf, fennel seed, olive oil, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and ¼ teaspoon of cayenne (or more to taste). Add the shrimp and seal; refrigerate six hours or overnight. (The pickled shrimp should be consumed within about 24 hours from the time they're refrigerated or otherwise they'll turn mushy.)
To make toast rounds:
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Using a 1.5" or 2” biscuit or cookie cutter, cut out four rounds from each slice of bread. Alternatively, you can cut bite-sized squares or triangles from each slice. Transfer the rounds to a baking sheet and lightly brush each one with olive oil. Toast for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until they’re slightly crisp and golden.
To assemble canapés:
Remove the shrimp from its marinade. In a small bowl, mash the avocados with a pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper, and a splash of lemon juice. Spread the mashed avocado on the toast rounds, top each with one pickled shrimp, garnish with chopped chives (if using) and serve immediately.