Louis, Louie

The origin of the Shrimp Louie salad is a tad confusing. One source says it was actually Crab Louie, and that the recipe originated in Seattle. Another source calls it Shrimp Louie and claims a San Francisco origin. And then there's the dressing recipe which varies slightly. And how about the spelling? I've seen LOUIS and LOUIE! And then we have a myriad of variations from celebrity chefs--they all sound great!

My relationship with Shrimp Louie goes back to the 1970s. Where I first had it, I just cannot remember, but likely in Florida, which is where I lived back then. Over the years I forgot about it, but since my first visit to the Sea Captain's House restaurant in Myrtle Beach, I've always ordered it. Always. The Sea Captain's House is an iconic old-school restaurant, the kind of place that you'd take your grandmother, your elderly aunt or even your great-grandmother (depending on your age). Shrimp Louie is a no-nonsense recipe. It requires high-quality fresh shrimp, a base of refreshingly crisp iceberg lettuce, fresh salad vegetables and a side of butter crackers in their little cellophane wrapper. A seaside view is optional, but highly recommended. The restaurant location has a long history that goes back to the 1930s. Currently, it is still family-owned and in operation for over 60 years. While they've had to update to attract younger patrons, the menu is still mostly the same. My beloved classic dish is now called Avocado Seafarer Salad. The description says it's served with a homemade remoulade, but it's the same dish that I've always looked forward to. I forgive you, Sea Captain's House!

Recently, I concocted my version of Shrimp Louie to serve to Rita, a dear friend who had crossed to the other side of a difficult health journey. Rita loves shrimp! This is my take on Shrimp Louie, ever so lightly straying from what I know as the classic recipe.

My Shrimp Louie Salad uses raw shrimp. I poach them in salted water until they are barely pink and mostly firm. They will continue to cook as they cool. Drain and pat dry using old kitchen towels. I move the shrimp to a mixing bowl, sprinkle lightly with Old Bay seasoning, toss and taste. If they need more seasoning, I adjust and taste again. I want the shrimp to taste like the sea with a bit of Old Bay--not the other way around. Mix the shrimp with a good amount of the dressing and set aside. (If you use frozen, pre-cooked shrimp, follow the instructions from patting dry.)

Cut the tomatoes into thick slices, cut the cucumbers into thick diagonal chunky slices and cut the eggs into two pieces. 

To serve: On each plate, lay out the lettuce in a thick layer, place a generous number of shrimp in the center or top, then arrange the vegetables around the shrimp. The avocado should be the last thing to slice and add to the plate (so it won't brown). Serve with lemon wedges, salt, pepper and extra dressing at the table.

Ingredients to serve 4 to 6 people:

  • 2 lbs raw jumbo or extra large shrimp (Sometimes I'll use frozen, pre-cooked and deveined shrimp. The flavor is better if I peel them myself, and they don't get freezer burn.)
  • Old Bay seasoning
  • 4-6 Campari tomatoes in thick slices
  • 4-6 small cucumbers, washed and ends cut off
  • shaved red onion (you decide how much)
  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, cored and exterior leaves removed
  • 4-6 eggs, boiled, peeled, halved
  • 2-3 small avocados
  • lemon wedges
1 cup Duke's mayonnaise
1/4 cup Heinz chili sauce
4 tablespoons sour cream
2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion (very finely)
2 tablespoons freshly chopped Italian parsley
A few shakes of Texas Pete hot sauce

Whisk to combine, cover and refrigerate. Can prepare up to two days ahead.


Popular Posts