Shrimp rolls always have a spot on my summer eats bucket list. They’re snuggled right up there next to lobster with potato salad and a slice of strawberry shortcake. A shrimp roll with a side of potato chips is simply summer to me. And when I order a shrimp roll, only the classic will do. So that’s what I’m bringing you today. There is no twist, no unexpected ingredient, and no out-of-left-field technique. What we have here is simply a damn good set of shrimp rolls meticulously prepared. So without further ado, let’s break down these Shrimp Rolls with Garlic Chive Butter.
Now, as you may or may not know, I usually post slightly off-kilter twists on popular recipes here on Rhubarb and Cod. But when it came time to add a shrimp roll recipe, I wasn’t feeling the least bit twisty. I didn’t really want to mess with the shrimp roll I know and love, so I didn’t and all was right with the world. What I did do was focus on the details that go into creating memorable shrimp rolls and contemplated how to execute each one to the best of my ability. Essentially, these Shrimp Rolls aren’t in any way innovative, they are simply obsessively prepared. But even with a fussier approach, shrimp rolls are still fairly simple to make.
Let’s start with the raw materials, shall we? And I do mean raw. First, let’s talk shrimp. Most shrimp roll recipes advise you to buy cooked, chilled shrimp. And there is nothing wrong with this approach. It certainly does save time and effort. And I’ve had plenty of shrimp rolls with precooked shrimp and they are fabulous. So if you’d rather not bust out a skillet, go ahead and buy yourself a shrimp ring from the grocery store. But if you have your sights set on making the Cadillac of shrimp rolls, pick up a bag of frozen, raw tiger shrimp. I like to buy mine with the shell on, so I can save and freeze them to make stock. And shrimp with their shells on tend to be cheaper.
First things first, remove the shells from the defrosted shrimp. Then add a small amount of baking soda to the shrimp and massage it in. This will give the shrimp a “springy” texture. It may sound silly, but I never skip this step. The texture of the cooked shrimp is so much better because of this simple step. Once the baking soda is in there, it’s time to prep the poaching liquid. I like to do 50/50 water and dry vermouth. But you could use wine instead or Pernod is also lovely. Next, add your aromatics. I went with two cloves of crushed garlic, 3-4 sprigs of tarragon, 2 bay leaves, and one teaspoon of Old Bay. Again, these are my selections, feel free to get creative with your aromatics.
Bring the poaching liquid up to a boil before reducing it to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes and then add the shrimp. Turn off the heat and cover the skillet. Let sit for 3 minutes, flipping the shrimp once halfway through. Once the shrimp are pink, transfer them to a bowl and set them aside to cool.
With the shrimp taken care of, it’s time to turn our attention to the other vital ingredient, the roll. Now, I only use top-loading hot dog buns for both shrimp and lobster rolls. I did not know there was a different kind of hot dog bun until I moved to Ontario from Nova Scotia and couldn’t find what I considered to be a hot dog bun. Apparently, the top-loading hot dog bun is also known as a New England-style hot dog bun. Who knew? The other day, while I was running errands in my neighborhood, I came across the hot dog buns of my youth in a local butcher’s shop. Finding those buns inspired this entire post. I was so happy to see them I nearly cried.
So you might be wondering what makes these buns so special. I think it’s fair to say a lot it is nostalgia. But they do have a unique feature that I think is critical to the success of a shrimp roll. When you pull the buns apart their fluffy interior is exposed on either side of the bun. So what I like to do and what I think you should do as well, is take your bun from the center of the package, slather both sides with butter, and toast them in a cast-iron skillet until golden. Is it rude to take a bun from the center of the run? Yes. Is the rudeness worth it? Absolutely!
I upped the ante by making my own compound butter to butter my roll with. This is not something you have to do, but I promise if you choose to do it you won’t regret it. Making compound butter is very simple. You essentially soften some butter, add in the ingredients you want, in my case chives and garlic, cream the ingredients together and you’re done. But if you’d rather not dirty another bowl, I get it. Regular old salted butter will do the trick as well. But I will say one more thing in favor of the more time-consuming option, you will have leftover butter and it is magic on popcorn.
Okay, now it’s time to assemble your rolls and this process could not be simpler. Simply chop the shrimp and toss it with a little mayo and lemon juice. I also add shaved fennel, but that is optional. Line the interior of the toasted buns with green leaf lettuce then pile the shrimp and fennel on top. Finish with a few fennel fronds and garnish with salt and vinegar chips. I would say the chips are optional but that’s just not what I feel in my heart. Life is short, add the chips.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Shrimp Rolls with Garlic Chive Butter. Timeless, classic, and devastatingly delicious, these shrimp rolls belong on your summer eats bucket list.
Shrimp Rolls with Garlic Chive Butter
- 1 Large skillet
- 1 mandolin
- 400g (14 oz) raw black tiger shrimp defrosted
- ¼ tsp baking soda
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup dry vermouth **
- 2 cloves garlic crushed
- 4-5 sprigs fresh tarragon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp Old Bay
- ½ cup fennel shaved and julienned
- ¼ cup mayo
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 4 top-loading hot dog buns
- 1 tbsp Garlic Chive Butter see below
- 8 green leaf lettuce leaves
- salt and vinegar potato chips optional
Garlic Chive Butter
- ½ cup unsalted butter softened
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ⅓ cup chives finely chopped
- ½ tsp kosher salt
- Remove the shells from the shrimp. *** Transfer the shelled shrimp to a bowl and add the baking soda. Massage the baking soda into the shrimp and set them aside.400g (14 oz) raw black tiger shrimp, ¼ tsp baking soda
- Pour the water and vermouth into a large skillet. Add the garlic, bay leaves, tarragon, and Old Bay, and bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.½ cup water, ½ cup dry vermouth **, 2 cloves garlic, 4-5 sprigs fresh tarragon, 2 bay leaves, 1 tsp Old Bay
- Take the skillet off of the heat and add the shrimp. Cover and let sit for 3 minutes, flipping the shrimp once halfway through. Once the shrimp turn pink, transfer them to a bowl and set them aside to cool.
- While the shrimp are cooling make the Garlic Chive Butter. Place the butter, garlic, chives, and salt in a bowl. Using a wooden spoon or a hand mixer, cream the ingredients into the butter. Transfer the butter to a ramekin and set it aside.½ cup unsalted butter, 1 clove garlic, ⅓ cup chives, ½ tsp kosher salt
- Coarsely chop the shrimp and place them in a bowl. Add the fennel, mayo, and lemon juice and stir to combine. Chill until ready to use.½ cup fennel, ¼ cup mayo, 1 tbsp lemon juice
- Take the buns and slather both sides with the Garlic Chive Butter. Place the buns in a skillet and toast until golden. Line the inside of the buns with the green leaf lettuce and spoon the shrimp mixture into the buns. Garnish with additional fennel fronds and salt and vinegar potato chips, if desired.4 top-loading hot dog buns, 1 tbsp Garlic Chive Butter, 8 green leaf lettuce leaves, salt and vinegar potato chips