Stuffed shrimp are definitely a special occasion treat, and in my house we have these as a first course before the roast on Christmas Eve. They could also be a part of an all-seafood feast if you follow the Italian-American tradition of The Feast of the Seven Fishes. They can be served alone, two or three to a person, or with a small green salad of winter greens and herbs dressed in lemon and olive oil. You can assemble them up to the point where you would put the breadcrumbs on and hold them in the fridge for an hour or two before baking just before serving.

The crab stuffing in this recipe can also be used to make stuffed flounder; simply roll a fillet around a portion of the stuffing and top it with the breadcrumb mixture before baking. Look for canned, pasteurized lump or backfin (not claw) crabmeat at seafood stores like The Net Result in Vineyard Haven.

When shopping for shrimp for this recipe, err on the large size. The smallest that will work (meaning you can butterfly them without getting frustrated!)) have a count of 16 to 20 per pound (sometimes labeled large, sometimes labeled jumbo). If you can get slightly bigger shrimp (U-10s or U-15s), that is ideal, though if they’re really huge, that can be cumbersome, too. Be sure to buy shrimp that’s in the shell and that hasn’t been deveined yet; deveined shrimp have been split down the back so they can’t be butterflied properly.


Serves 4 to 6 as a first course

  • 16 to 18 jumbo, extra-large, or large shrimp
  • 3 ½ tablespoons unsalted butter; more for the baking sheet
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • Two drops Sriracha or Asian Chile Garlic Sauce
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 pound lump or backfin crabmeat (pasteurized canned is fine), drained and picked over for shells if necessary
  • 1 ¼ cups fresh coarse breadcrumbs (I like to make them from English muffins)
  • Salad greens and dressing for serving, if desired 

 

1. Butterfly the shrimp: Rinse the shrimp and pat them dry. Remove all of the peel up to the point where there is a small section attached to the tail; keep that intact. Holding the shrimp by the tail on a cutting board, use a sharp paring knife to cut down the middle of the underside almost but not all the way through. You want to expose the vein that runs along the topside of the shrimp. Open the shrimp like a book and use the knife to remove the vein.

2. Make the stuffing: In a small saucepan, melt two tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Add the scallions and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, about three minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the Worcestershire sauce and the hot sauce. Let cool for a few minutes.

3. In a medium bowl, combine the mayonnaise, the Parmigianno, 1 tablespoon of the chopped parsley, the lemon zest, the lemon juice, the mustard, ¼ teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Stir in the scallion butter. Add the crab and mix gently until well combined.  

4. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the remaining 1½ tablespoons butter. Add the breadcrumbs and cook, stirring, until toasted and golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer the crumbs to a bowl and add the remaining 1 tablespoon parsley and ¼ teaspoon salt.

5. Stuff the shrimp: Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil and rub lightly with butter. Arrange the butterflied shrimp on the baking sheet. Using a spoon or your hands, mound a heaping tablespoon of the crab mixture onto each shrimp, patting it just a bit to make a nice shape that mostly covers the exposed shrimp. (At this point, you can hold the stuffed shrimp — on the baking sheet, covered lightly in plastic wrap — for an hour or so in the fridge if you are working ahead.) Sprinkle and pat the breadcrumbs over the crab on each shrimp. (This will be messy; don’t worry if there are crumbs on the baking sheet.) If possible, flip the tail of each shrimp up and over the crab. (If not, the tail can just lie flat; no worries).