Spicy Shrimp & Avocado Salad Sandwiches

Last week I read the book Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (she of The Time Traveler's Wife fame). I ended up not really liking the book as much as I expected. In fact, I didn't really like it at all. The story was fine initially, but I expected something spookier and felt like many parts of it were left unexplained and unexplored. Even with suspension of disbelief, much of it just really didn't make any sense. The final third of the book, in particular, was stupid, and rushed, almost as if it had been written in haste just to get it over with or like she just grew bored.

To put it frankly, it was a huge waste of time.

But all was not lost!

It's a long book and once I put it down (once I got past just how bad it was), I found myself thinking over and over again about one particular scene. Just a few lines, really, where the main characters--a pair of 20-something American twins living in London--are taken on a picnic by a male neighbor. He brings along sandwiches and when they ask what kind they are, he says

"Prawn-mayonnaise sandwiches...[In America] you would call it a shrimp-salad sandwich, though I've never understood where the salad idea comes into."

I thought that was a pretty clever observation because it's true; we do seem to call just about everything a "salad" even though most barely are (think Ambrosia salad or classic tuna or egg or elbow macaroni salad; x-flavored mayo would definitely be more appropriate). That said, the thought of a creamy shrimp salad was officially stuck in my head and it wasn't long before I made it our dinner.

I used small hand-peeled Laughing Bird white Caribbean shrimp for mine. If you haven't tried them yet, I definitely urge you to seek them out. Humanely farm-raised in filtered sea water, they are fed a completely vegetarian diet (that keeps them 100% mercury free) and are chilled immediately after being caught (never frozen) so they are always fresh and sweet. Bonus points because the farm where they are raised has been given high marks and praise by the World Wildlife Fund.

Oh and at around $10 a pound, they brought me infinitely more pleasure than that lousy book.

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Spicy Shrimp and Avocado Salad Sandwiches
Makes 6-8 sandwiches

1.5 pounds clean and peeled small shrimp (I love Laughing Bird hand-peeled shrimp, which are humanely farmed shrimp completely free of mercury, sulfates, or other nasty things.)
2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika
1 tablespoon cooking or olive oil

1 red onion, finely minced
1 large Florida avocado, diced into about 3/4" cubes
1 cup minced celery (about 2 stalks)
1 bunch roughly chopped watercress (or arugula)

1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup plain Greek-style yogurt
zest and juice of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon grainy or Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons apple cider or red wine vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 teaspoon Oregano
1 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Kosher salt
Ground Black pepper

Kaiser or Whole Grain buns for serving

In a large bowl, toss the clean and peeled shrimp with the Old Bay and paprika.

Over medium-high flame, heat the oil in a large dutch oven or skillet and add the shrimp. saute until cooked thoroughly. Remove the shrimp from the pot and place in a large clean bowl. Reserve the liquid from the pot.

To the bowl of shrimp, add the minced red onion, diced avocado, minced celery, and watercress.

In a smaller separate bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon zest and juice, mustard, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and cayenne. If too thick, add a tablespoon or two from the reserved cooked shrimp liquid.

Pour the dressing over the shrimp and watercress mixtures and toss to coat well. Season with Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper as desired.

Serve the salad piled into Kaiser or Whole Grain buns for serving as a sandwich or serve in small bowls as a salad.

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