This simple appetizer is perfect for serving large crowds or feeding guests at a cocktail party. The clean and delicate flavors of thinly shaved fennel, lemon, and seared shrimp are harmonious together. It can be tempting to add a flavor bomb like bacon or chorizo, but sometimes less is more, and this recipe illustrates that concept perfectly.
If you want to grill the shrimp instead of searing them in a skillet, please go right ahead. —Josh Cohen
- Serves 4 to 6 people
shrimp (size 16/20), shelled and deveined
shallots, peeled but left whole
rib of celery
Freshly ground black pepper
- Fill a large mixing bowl with cold water and wash the shrimp as if you were washing a bunch of parsley. Remove the shrimp to a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels and thoroughly dry them. Store the shrimp in the refrigerator, uncovered.
- Cut the fennel bulb into quarters. Remove and discard the tough outer layer. Shave the fennel crosswise into thin slivers, using either a mandoline or a sharp knife. When you get to the core of the fennel, stop shaving and discard the core. Transfer the shaved fennel into a large mixing bowl. Shave the shallots into thin rounds, adding to the bowl with the fennel. Shave the celery into thin slivers, adding it to the bowl as well.
- Using a Microplane, zest the lemon and add the zest to the bowl with the shaved vegetables. Add a large pinch of salt and some cracks of freshly ground pepper (I like to be aggressive with the pepper here). Toss the mixture gently.
- Set a large skillet over high heat and add just enough canola oil to cover the surface of the skillet. Let the oil get very hot. Just at the moment when thin wisps of smoke begin to appear, add the shrimp. Use tongs to arrange the shrimp into a single even layer in the skillet, then let the shrimp cook undisturbed for a minute or two. When the underside of the shrimp looks golden brown and seared, flip and cook for an additional minute or two, until the shrimp are fully cooked through. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and transfer the hot shrimp to the bowl with the shaved vegetables.
- Stir the shrimp in with the vegetables. The residual heat from the shrimp will gently wilt the vegetables. This is a good thing—the flavors will meld together. Drizzle the mixture with a little olive oil and squeeze the juice from the lemon over the top of the mixture. Stir. Taste a shrimp along with a pinch of the shaved vegetables. Add more salt, pepper, or lemon as necessary.
- To assemble, skewer a shrimp using a small bamboo skewer. Top the shrimp with some of the shaved vegetables. Repeat with the remaining shrimp. If there is some liquid at the bottom of the mixing bowl, use a spoon to distribute some of this liquid over the top of each shrimp (this liquid is filled with flavor). Serve and enjoy.