Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Chemistry & Cookbook Adventures: Shrimp Mosaic with Avocado-Melon Salsa

As I've mentioned, I'm playing with meat glue these days, but I can't really explain why I made this dish. I had some shrimp. I had some meat glue. I read a recipe in Ideas in Food where you glue a bunch of shrimp together. Seemed like the universe really wanted me to try it. Who am I to blow against the wind?
So... Super-easy recipe. You take some shrimp and toss with cayenne and sea salt, then combine with meat glue (about 1% by weight).
This now goes into a 10" x 12" vacuum bag. I made a double batch, so I divided the mixture between two such bags.
Next, you gently flatten the shrimp mixture with a meat mallet (or, if you don't have a meat mallet and are feeling hostile, you can beat the crap out of it with a marble rolling pin), then spread it out into an even layer in the bag.
Here is one of the bags held up to the light. Mmmm... Smooshed, glued-together shrimp!
The next day, this cooks in a 55°C water bath for 20 minutes.
The bag then goes into an ice bath to chill, and can hang out overnight in the fridge until you're ready to start slicing.
I will be honest that I didn't really think this dish through. I just decided that gluing a bunch of shrimp together and smashing them with a marble rolling pin seemed kinda fun... but what to do with my new glued-together mass of smooshed shrimp? I decided to fall back on one of my favorite seafood accompaniments: a simple avocado-melon salsa. The problem here was that I was having pain issues and wasn't going to be able to do any serious chopping in the kitchen that day, so I decided to be "creative" and do most of the prep in a comfy chair with a mini-melon baller.
I tossed the melon balls with lime juice, sea salt, and finely minced red onion, then gently combined with little balls of avocado... This went on top of the shrimp "mosaic" that I had cut to fit my plate, and I tend to think it looks kind of cool...
This was fun (and delicious!) and all, but would be unwieldy to serve at a dinner party. I decided to slice up some smaller rectangles for appetizer portions. They turned out kind of cute, and I liked the improved avocado-to-shrimp ratio...
This was definitely a fun meat glue experiment. I started out wondering why the heck I was gluing a random food together, but now I have about 20 different ideas for how to use this technique in other cool presentations. What you basically end up with is well-seasoned, perfectly cooked shrimp, but in thin sheets that are easy to work with in so many different presentations. Why did I never think to glue a bunch of shrimp together before?!?

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