This shrimp and macaroni salad has a secret ingredient
Macaroni salad is a staple of barbecues, picnics, family gatherings, parties, potlucks, and a popular side at barbecue and soul food restaurants throughout the South.
The best macaroni salads feature a perfectly sweet and tangy dressing, al dente pasta and veggies diced small, so they don’t overtake the pasta. Oh, and plenty of hard-cooked eggs along with a secret ingredient — sweet pickle juice.
If you’re lucky enough to live on the coast where fresh seafood is available, additions like shrimp and crab are a must. There are many versions of this salad, with many being passed from generation to generation.
Recipes usually advise not to rinse the pasta after draining, but in this case it’s a good idea because it stops the cooking process and prevents the noodles from sticking. Because it’s a mayonnaise-based salad, flavor always is enhanced by the addition of hard-cooked eggs.
A small amount of sweet pickle juice adds tang and thins out the dressing a little. You can use different pickle juice if it suits you, or lemon or vinegar if pickles aren’t your thing. Make sure to refrigerate for a few hours or overnight to allow the flavors to meld. It also needs to be kept cool when serving.
It’s better to put a little out at a time and keep the rest refrigerated.
Classic Shrimp and Macaroni Salad
For the salad:
1⁄2 pound elbow macaroni
1⁄2 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups coarsely chopped cooked shrimp
1 rib celery, chopped small
1⁄2 cup sweet onion, chopped small
1⁄2 cup bell pepper, chopped small (red, green, yellow or orange will do)
3 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
2 green onions, sliced
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
For the dressing:
1⁄2 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon Creole mustard
1⁄2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1⁄4 teaspoon Creole/Cajun seasoning
1⁄2 teaspoon lemon pepper
1⁄2 teaspoon garlic pepper
1⁄3 cup pickle juice
Boil the pasta until al dente. Drain, rinse and set aside to dry.
Transfer to a serving bowl or storage container and drizzle with olive oil.
Add shrimp and the rest of the salad ingredients except the tomatoes.
Whisk together all the dressing ingredients except the pickle juice.
Stir into the pasta and check seasoning. Make adjustments if needed.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.
Just before serving, stir in tomatoes and enough pickle juice for desired consistency.
Phil Newton is a Galveston baker/cook. He’s the owner/operator of Stiglich Corner with partner Cindy Roberts.