Grilled Shrimp Salad with Twisted Bacon & Avocado
Summery Grilled Shrimp SaladThis hearty grilled shrimp salad is a perfect example of my Salad For Dinner strategy for cooking healthy-ish and deliciously. We don't want to overdo the bacon, but in this case twisted bacon adds a delicious crunch and complements the shrimp, avocado, tomatoes and corn. This grilled shrimp salad is a great summer entertaining dish that you can largely prep in advance.
What Type of Shrimp?Use the largest shrimp you can find and afford. I use 6-8 count, which means there are 6 - 8 shrimp per pound. Smaller, higher count shrimp will be less expensive. Don't be afraid of frozen shrimp; most shrimp was frozen at some point. Typically the fresh shrimp found behind the counter has merely been thawed by your fishmonger or grocer. Bon Appetit makes the argument that frozen shrimp are fresher than thawed "fresh" shrimp, because you control how long they have been thawed. You also have the choice between whole shrimp and peeled and deveined shrimp. I am lazy and prefer to buy my shrimp peeled and deveined, but the choice is yours.
Preparing the ShrimpI use a method for preparing and grilling the shrimp that I learned from Kenji Lopez at Serious Eats. Kenji tosses the uncooked shrimp in a combination of baking powder and salt. He threads them tightly on two skewers. And lets the surface of the shrimp dry in the refrigerator. This process helps keep the shrimp juicy and at the same time promotes grill marks when they are grilled. The shrimp can be grilled several hours ahead of time. And tossed with marinade after they are cooked. This allows the shrimp to absorb more of the marinade flavor. Store them in the fridge until you are ready to assemble your salad.
Twisted BaconOven-cooked twisted bacon is my new favorite way to cook bacon. It is so good I have served it as an appetizer! There are all kinds of benefits to this Tik-Tok-famous method. First, you can get an entire pound of bacon on one baking sheet. Second, it keeps the bacon juicy inside and crispy on the outside. Third, the oven method keeps your stove top clean. And finally, it is a hands-off process that allows you to devote your attention to preparing the shrimp and dressing instead of being splattered as you hover over the stove, cooking bacon the traditional stove top way.
Make Your Dressing in a Food Processor or BlenderWhy? It is so much easier and takes only a fraction of the time it would take to chop your shallots, garlic and cilantro. Plus a food processor creates a wonderful emulsion that stays together, rather than separating like many hand-prepped dressings do. Check out my post on Food Processors and you will see why I love them and how they help me eat more healthfully. If a full-sized food processor is not in your budget, there are many smaller models as well as a wonderful, inexpensive Mini-Prep made by Cuisinart that is great for making dressing, chopping herbs, grinding nuts and more.
Time RequiredI am not going to deceive you, this grilled shrimp salad recipe has a few steps and takes a little time to make. You can prep it largely in advance. The shrimp can be prepped in the morning and grilled in advance, as can the corn and asparagus. You can make the dressing a day in advance and the bacon can be prepared several hours in advance. The lettuce can be cleaned, spun and dried a day or two before you serve the salad. So if you are a make-ahead kind of person, this salad will work very well for you. The good news is this grilled shrimp salad is a complete meal in itself. If you like this Grilled Shrimp Salad, check out my recipe for Minted Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Jicama Tortillas.
Grilled Shrimp Salad with Twisted bacon and Avocado
Yield 4 - 6 Servings
This grilled shrimp salad with twisted bacon, corn, tomatoes and avocado makes for the perfect summer entertaining salad. It can largely be made ahead and assembled just before you serve.
For the shrimp:
- 1 1/4 pounds very large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 6 - 8 count but you can use smaller shrimp)
- 1/2 t baking soda
- 1/2 t kosher salt
- Bamboo skewers
For the bacon:
- 12 slices thick cut bacon
- Smoked paprika (optional)
- Montreal seasoning (optional)
- Black pepper
For the corn and asparagus:
- 2 ears corn, shucked
- 3/4 pounds asparagus, trimmed
- 1 T olive oil
For the dressing:
- 1 medium shallot, peeled and cut into quarters.
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- Zest from 1 lime and 1 T fresh lime juice
- 1/4 c rice vinegar
- 3/4 cup good quality virgin olive oil
- 1 large handful cilantro, washed including stems
- Kosher salt
- Fresh ground pepper
- Dried red pepper flakes
For the salad:
- 4 large heads Little Gem salad, washed, dried and chilled
- 1 avocado, peeled and sliced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes
For the shrimp:
- The night before, soak your bamboo skewers in a pan of water.
- In a small bowl toss the shrimp with baking soda and salt to coat. Double thread the shrimp on the skewers, alternating head and tail and stacking them tightly. Place over a baking pan so that the shrimp are suspended in the air. (See photo in headnotes.) Put the pan of skewered shrimp in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
- Over medium high grill, grill the shrimp until they are pink, no longer translucent and grill marks begin to appear. Do not over cook or shrimp will be tough. Remove from skewers and toss with 5 - 6 T of dressing. Set aside.
For the bacon:
- Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Twist each piece of bacon and lay twisted bacon strips side-by-side on pan. If desired, season with smoked paprika, Montreal seasoning and black pepper.
- Cooking time will depend on the thickness of your bacon. Check after 10 minutes and then every 2 - 3 minutes after. Thin bacon may be done in 10-12 minutes. Extra thick bacon may take more than 20 minutes to cook and may require turning part way through.
For the corn and asparagus:
- Grill the corn and asparagus at the same time that you grill the shrimp. If your grill can't accommodate everything at once, grill the shrimp first and then the vegetables. That way you can toss the shrimp in the dressing while the corn and asparagus cook so the shrimp has more time to absorb the marinade flavors.
- Grill the corn until it has nice grill marks, about 10 minutes. Remove, let cool and slice off kernels and set aside.
- Toss the asparagus in a tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill until there are grill marks on all sides, remove and set aside.
For the salad dressing:
- Put shallots and garlic in a food processor and whirl until finely chopped. Add lime zest, lime juice, rice vinegar, olive oil and cilantro and whirl to combine. Set aside.
To assemble the salad:
- Spread the lettuce over a large flat platter or shallow bowl and scatter the corn kernels, avocado and cherry tomatoes over the lettuce.
- Lay the grilled shrimp down the middle of the platter and place the cooked bacon twists and asparagus spears around the edges of the platter. Drizzle with dressing and serve.
I have made the dressing with basil and with cilantro. Both work well.
Courses Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine New American