Southern Pickled Shrimp With Saffron Aioli

Executive chef Lewis Butler of the Center Club Orange County in Costa Mesa, Calif., pairs these tangy pickled shrimp with his pomegranate-tinged version of the Oaks Lily, the official cocktail of Kentucky Oaks races held annually the day before the Kentucky Derby.

3 pounds medium shrimp, boiled and peeled, leaving tail tip intact
2 medium purple onions, sliced in rings
1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup water
1-1/2 teaspoons celery seeds
2 bay leaves
4 teaspoons capers
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 garlic clove, peeled and pressed
Saffron Aioli (recipe follows)

In a deep bowl or large canning vessel, alternate layers of shrimp and onion slices until all is used.

In a medium saucepan, combine and boil the sugar, vinegar, water, celery seeds, and bay leaves for 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Let the mixture cool at room temperature or in an ice bath. Once cooled, add the capers, olive oil, tarragon, ground red pepper, and garlic to the mixture.

Pour the entire mixture over the layered shrimp and onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours, stirring every couple of hours. Serve the chilled shrimp in pickling jars or a tall, glass serving dish. Serve with the Saffron Aioli for dipping.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings


1/2 cup dry white wine
2 pinches saffron
2 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup grapeseed or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
kosher salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the white wine and saffron and stir until the saffron dissolves. Reduce the mixture on medium-high heat until about 1 tablespoon remains.

In a blender or food processor, add the garlic, mustard, yolks, and saffron white wine reduction. Blend on low until combined. Slowly add the oils, along with the lemon juice and salt to taste, until combined. Cover and refrigerate until serving.

CHEF’S PAIRING: Tangy Oaks Lily

1 ounce vodka
1 ounce sweet and sour mix
1-1/2 ounces pomegranate juice
1-1/2 ounces cranberry juice
1 splash Triple Sec
1/4 lime, juice only
crushed ice
orange wedge

Mix all ingredients except ice and garnishes in a shaker. Pour in a stemless wine glass over crushed ice. Garnish with an orange wedge and a cherry.

Yield: 1 serving


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