We all love the traditional Cobb Salad made with lettuce, bacon, avocados, cooked chicken, hard-boiled eggs, and blue cheese dressing, but sometimes you just gotta break the rules.
This version of Cobb Salad keeps the spirit of the familiar assembled plate of vegetables and protein, but subs in a variety of new elements. Large cooked shrimp stand in for the chicken; we lose the hard-boiled eggs, but we keep the bacon, avocados, and tomatoes.
Cucumbers add a refreshing crunch, and the tropical addition of mango adds just a touch of sweetness. I finish the whole thing off with a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese called cotija and basil dressing.
Not only does this salad scream summer, but the dressing ties all the flavors together with its herby, creamy essence.
HOW TO BUY SHRIMP
Since ‘fresh’ shrimp is pretty much nonexistent because almost all shrimp are frozen immediately after harvest, I always pick up frozen shrimp.
That shrimp in the seafood case at the supermarket? It is simply frozen shrimp that has been defrosted.
Shrimp is quite perishable, and there’s no way to know how long ago it was thawed. For that reason, I like to buy frozen shrimp and defrost it myself when it’s time to cook (plunk it in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes).
For this recipe, I prefer large (16-20 per pound) shrimp to small ones because I like the statement they make on the plate (and there are fewer to peel, too!). You can also just purchase cooked and peeled shrimp of any size and skip the cooking and peeling.
HOW TO COOK SHRIMP
To cook shrimp, follow one hard and fast rule: Do not boil them! Delicate proteins in shrimp seize, shrink, and become rubbery when subjected to high temperatures.
To poach shrimp, the water temperature should be between 165 and 175 degrees, the temperature obtained after you drop cold shrimp into simmering liquid.
If you want to cook a lot of shrimp, do it in batches of about one pound each to ensure even cooking.
The shells of unpeeled shrimp do the best job of protecting the shrimp from overcooking. If you’re cooking peeled shrimp, subtract a minute from the cooking directions in this recipe.
HOW TO SERVE THE SALAD
An assembled salad has a lot of eye appeal. For a serious wow factor, arrange the ingredients on a platter in the pattern of your choice and serve the dressing on the side. The individual components don’t have to line up like soldiers, so let those creative juices flow.
If you want to make the salad ahead, you can pack each element in containers, refrigerate them, and assemble the salad just before serving. They will keep in the fridge for at least a day, though you might want to cut the avocado shortly before serving to keep it from turning brown.
Use the same strategy if you are planning a picnic, and bring along a platter to set up your pretty salad display.
MORE SUMMER-READY SALADS!
Shrimp Cobb Salad with Creamy Basil Dressing Recipe
For the creamy basil dressing:
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon honey
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup packed basil leaves
- 1/3 cup olive oil
For the salad:
- 1 pound large (16-20 per pound), shell-on shrimp, thawed
- 1/2 yellow onion, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
- 2 sprigs parsley
- 4 slices bacon, cut crosswise into slices
- 2 small heads baby romaine lettuce, or other crisp lettuce, torn into pieces
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 small avocados, sliced
- 2 small yellow mangoes, peeled and diced
- 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced
- 8 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled
1 Make the dressing: In a food processor or blender, process the mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, honey, salt, pepper, and basil leaves until smooth.
With the motor running, slowly stream in the oil through the feed tube until blended. Taste and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice, if you like.
2 Cook the shrimp: Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set it aside. You will use this to stop the shrimp from cooking.
In a wide saucepan set over medium heat, bring 4 cups of water to a simmer. Add the onion, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, and parsley. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the shrimp to the pot, and stir.
Bring the water back to a simmer and remove the pan from the heat. Cover with a lid and leave for 3 minutes, or until the shrimp are opaque in the center.
With a slotted spoon, quickly scoop the shrimp into the bowl of ice water. Swish them around for one minute. Drain and pat dry. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours, or until ready to use.
3 Peel and devein the cooked shrimp: Starting underneath where the legs are attached, pull off the legs and shell. Leave the tail segment on (for appearance.)
Make a shallow slit down the middle of the back of the shrimp to reveal the black thread (intestine). Use the tip of a paring knife to lift out the black vein. Rinse the shrimp under cold running water.
4 Cook the bacon: In a skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon until crisp and golden. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
5 Assemble the salad: Serve on one large platter or on individual plates. Spread the lettuce on the bottom and top with separate mounds of shrimp, bacon, tomatoes, avocados, mangoes, cucumbers, and cheese. Serve with basil dressing.
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