Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Daydream

When we couldn’t sleep or felt totally wronged by the college cafeteria, my college roommate, Val, and I would describe favorite dishes from favorite restaurants to each other.  Sounds a little torturous, I know, especially after we probably had some Sysco canned green beans for dinner.  But it always did the trick, Val and I would drift off with visions of crepes and sushi all through our heads.
Val grew up in Brookline and had another outpost in the West Village at her Dad’s house.  She had also spent a summer in Aix.  She had a delicious food list.  Mine wasn’t too bad either.  Baltimoreans don’t be so surprised. No other place has our crab cakes, steamed crabs, Tio Pepe’s pine nut roll, Mary Sue easter eggs, Italian pastry shops on Bel Air road, our cheesy Baltimore version of Little Italy, soft shelled crab sandwiches, mussels, Berger cookies, crab chips, the treasures inside Cross Street and Lexington Markets, shall I continue?  All of these items are unique to Baltimore.  Sure you can get a crab cake anywhere, but it probably doesn’t taste remotely as good as the ones in Baltimore.  And while you also might be able to ferret out a soft shelled crab I bet it’s in a restaurant with a white table cloth not on a piece of white bread at a diner in Remington for $5. And if you live in Baltimore I suspect you tend to take all of this for granted.  I did and now I spend my time trying to recreate many of these items.
One other Baltimore tradition is the shrimp salad sandwich.  Shrimp salad is always served at bridal showers, with a side of croissants from Costco.  But more traditionally it is served on white bread with lettuce and tomato.  Eddie’s of Roland Park is the bench mark for shrimp salad sandwiches.  Eddie’s is the bench mark for a lot of things, I don’t know any other grocery store where you can have a grown man follow you around the store and place items in your cart, because selecting groceries is that exhausting?  Their deli is amazing and run like science lab, exacting, precise and very, very serious.  And if they don’t actually wear lab coats they wear something extremely similar.  Whenever I visit Baltimore I make a point to get a shrimp salad sandwich from Eddie’s.  I daydream about this sandwich.
Like crab cakes, everyone in Baltimore has a shrimp salad recipe.  I have tried to make mine as much like Eddie’s as possible.  They manage to keep their shrimp whole, I find they stay on the bread better if cut in half lengthwise.  You can guarantee after all this talk I am having this sandwich for lunch today.

Shrimp Salad for Two

3/4 lb. shrimp (30-40 count shrimp)
1/4 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons diced celery
1 tablespoon green onion, green part only sliced thinly
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay, or your preferred Chesapeake Bay seasoning
1/8 teaspoon dried parsley
1 tiny pinch celery seed
salt and pepper

Heat 1-2 cups of water to a boil over a steamer basket, add the shrimp and steam until just cooked, about 4 minutes.  Cool on ice.  When the shrimp are cool, peel and devein them, then slice (or not) them lengthwise.  Combine the shrimp and the remaining ingredients and chill for 1 or up to 24 hours.

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