Shrimp Melt with Capers and Old Bay Seasoning

Story by Holly
Shrimp Melt with Capers and Old Bay Seasoning
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Is there a dish or recipe that brings you right back to childhood, for better or worse? I have very clear memories of my mom making shrimp melts. I'm not sure what she added into the bright pink, bay shrimp mixture, but I can still picture her placing a careful scoop on top of an english muffin. I remember those being all the rage during my childhood (english muffin pizzas were another classic dinner time treat). My mom would then top the muffins with shredded cheddar and broil until melted, gooey and crispy-edged. This is the only part of the dish that I liked. I would happily sit at the counter for however long it took to peel off all of the burnt cheese bits from the baking pan, while avoiding the little sandwiches entirely. While my love of melted cheese still burns just as bright, thankfully, my distaste for shrimp has faded away.


We added the Old Bay to fresh, juicy shrimp, threw in the capers I was so fond of, and made a few other tweaks to really take this shrimp melt to the next level.

Shrimp Melt with Capers and Old Bay Seasoning

While the shrimp melts of my childhood left me less than thrilled about the little crustaceans, a very short stint at the cheesecake factory in my early 20's redeemed them for me. I just couldn't get enough 'bang bang chicken and shrimp' and also a shrimp BLT with capers they had on the menu at the time. While my palate is hardly perfect, I like to think it has matured since then. But it's funny, isn't it? Those gateway food experiences that help open the doors for an appreciation of ingredients we may have previously written off. That restaurant job did that for me. Shrimp was no longer taboo in my book, and for that I am thankful.

Shrimp Melt with Capers and Old Bay Seasoning

When Natalie and I talked about wanting to do something with shrimp, my mind immediately went to my two most formative shrimp experiences; the version I remembered disliking as a child (why, I'm not sure of to this day) and the shrimp and caper BLT at the Cheesecake Factory that I remember loving. We decided to forever redeem the shrimp melt by marrying the gooey goodness of melted cheese, with the tang of capers, and amping up the seasoning throughout. Natalie was itching to have an excuse to use some Old Bay seasoning, which has been making a comeback in the culinary scene of late. If you aren't familiar, Old Bay seasoning is a blend of celery salt, bay leaves, black pepper, crushed red pepper, mace, cloves, allspice, paprika, nutmeg, cardamon and ginger. Talk about delicious. You can put this stuff on just about anything, and now that I have a giant tin of it in my pantry, I'm doing just that. We added the Old Bay to fresh, juicy shrimp, threw in the capers I was so fond of, and made a few other tweaks to really take this shrimp melt to the next level. My current shrimp loving, grown-up palate can really appreciate and be proud to serve this to family and company alike. I know I'll be making these often for a quick and delicious weeknight dinner, and can only hope my kids look back and remember this version of a shrimp melt more affectionately than I did at their age. This recipe just may win them over. If not, more for me.

Shrimp Melt with Capers and Old Bay Seasoning

Serves 2

Ingredients

4 slices of artisan bread, cut 1 inch in thickness
1 lb medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/3 cup good mayonnaise
1 tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp worcestershire
2 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
3 tbsp celery, minced
1 tbsp shallot, finely copped
1 tbsp capers
8 slices of tomato
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated

Method

  1. Toss the shrimp into a medium sized skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the shrimp for 4-5 minutes. When the shrimp is pink and there are no grey parts left, set shrimp aside on a paper towel lined plate.
  2. In a medium sized bowl, whisk the mayonnaise with the lemon juice, old bay seasoning and worcestershire until smooth. Add capers, shallots and celery. Fold shrimp into mayonnaise mixture and toss just enough to ensure it is evenly coated.
  3. The shrimp will start off looking grey and translucent, but will gradually become pink and opaque as they cook through. The tails will also turn bright red. Cook the shrimp, stirring frequently, until the flesh is totally pink and opaque, and you see no more grey bits. Depending on the size of your shrimp and how many you have in the pan, this will usually take 4 to 5 minutes.
  4. Place sliced bread on a baking sheet. Broil the bread just long enough to get a slight crisp on the top side, 2-3 minutes. Flip bread over and toast the other side for 2-3 minutes. Once both sides are lightly toasted, remove them from the oven.
  5. Divide shrimp mixture evenly among the toasts. Top with 2 slices of tomato each and cover in shredded sharp cheddar. Place back under the broiler until the cheese is melted and a golden brown.