Shrimp and Snow Peas: Proper Parties and Toothpicks

20th Jul 2006


There comes a point in our party-going lives when throwing a Saturday night get-together does not entail gathering up all the expensive things around the house and stacking them nicely in the bedroom behind lock and key.  No portraits need be taken down, no glassware gathered.  Laptops need not be stowed away so as to avoid the deluge of spilt drinks.  A party can be thrown where people actually wipe their feet on the rugs.  Beer cans are neatly gathered in the kitchen, most drinks are kindly drunk, not spilled, and when people leave that night you'll just have to do is sweep up a little bit instead of pulling out the rubber gloves and a large bottle of Fantastic.

When this particular phenomenon occurred to me, I felt a certain pull to stop with cheese cubes, the bags of Lays and Doritos, and pull out something a little more appropriate.  Whether this was particularly warranted or not, I'm not sure, but I was feeling ready to try something a little more labor-intensive.  I'm not sure if it was for my pleasure or theirs.  Maybe I was trying to impress, maybe I wanted to just remain in the kitchen as my girlfriend frantically cleaned the apartment, but I managed to pick some of the most labor intensive party food possible.  And yes, suddenly those little frilly toothpicks started appearing.

I found this recipe in the Silver Palate Cookbook , a little cookbook that Blake picked up somewhere that smells a little bit of old lady, but has just enough interesting bits to keep me reading.  The recipe seemed like the perfect take off on the shrimp cocktail, twisting the flavors and still making the dish portable and party-approved.  The time actually spent on the dish, sans marinating, was a little less than 45 minutes, the most taxing part being deveining the shrimp which can be solved if you just buy them already deviened.  So was it worth it?

Well, snow peas are much more expensive than I thought glorified peas could be and so is two pounds of shrimp.  So to make these into little finger foods was a little ridiculous on my part, especially considering that I doubled the recipe to fit the attendees.  This dish would be better served as an appetizer.  But while the dollar signs started to skew my reasoning, and I wondered why I hadn't just dumped a pile a chips across the table and been done with it, I noticed that all of them had been eaten.  And considering I didn't have to clean, I considered it a success.

Shrimp and Snow Peas

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 pound raw shrimp
  • 1/2 pound snow peas
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup sherry wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil
  • toothpicks

Adapted from Silver Palate Cookbook .

The vinaigrette is quick and easy.  Actually, the hardest part is just making sure you have sherry vinegar (we had to buy some) and gathering all the ingredients on a nice sturdy table.


Whisk the mustard and vinegar.  When combined, add the salt and pepper.


While whisking, pour in the olive oil slowly.  Just try and keep the sauce as one liquid.  If it starts to break up then whisk harder.  That's really it.  Before it's needed just whisk it again, sort of like shaking that salad dressing bottle before you toss it on the lettuce.


Peel and devein the shrimp if you so choose.  Some shrimp won't need it, others will have a nice hunk of something contained within.  It's up to you.  I do it because it's fairly easy, and if you make a cut along the back, the shrimp butterfly when they cook.


Pour the oil into a skillet over medium heat.  Saute the shrimp in small batches so they don't get crowded and start steaming.  When done, place them in a bowl and throw another batch in.


When all the shrimp is done, pour the sherry vinaigrette over the warm shrimp.  Now, the cookbook says to let the shrimp marinate in the vinaigrette for an hour, but it doesn't say where.  I just had them going on the counter when I finally thought about how long the shrimp would be sitting out in the open and put them in the refrigerator.  If anyone knows the rules please let me know.


Get a bowl of ice water ready.  Bring a pot of salted water to boil and throw in the peas for 2 minutes.  When done, dump in the ice bath and let them cool for 10 minutes or so.


When the shrimp have marinated for an hour and the peas have cooled, it's time for construction.  The cookbook describes some process of splitting the pea pods and placing the shrimp inside, which sounds mighty fancy.  But I think I got shrimp that were just a little too big, and the butterflied shrimp curled up too much to fit nicely inside.  While I was getting angry for going through with this whole recipe before realizing I couldn't finish it, my girlfriend just suggested wrapping the peas around the shrimp and sticking the toothpick through.


And it looked quite nice.



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