Shrimp Toast

I have no idea when, where, or why this delicate canapé became a staple at stylish Southern cocktail receptions, but I suspect it’s been around for centuries and possibly originated with the first English settlers in Charleston and Savannah. I’ve seen shrimp toast served at an antebellum home outside Mobile, on silver trays in the Garden District of New Orleans, at a book party on Jekyll Island, Georgia, and, indeed, on many of my own mother’s buffets. The toasts couldn’t be more distinctive, and I only wish they could be frozen successfully (they can’t) so I could make them in large quantities for future occasions.

Ingredients

  • ½ pound fresh shrimp
  • 1 small lemon, cut in half and seeded
  • 2 scallions (green tops included), cut in half
  • 5 whole water chestnuts
  • 1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 large egg white, at room temperature
  • 10 slices white toast, crusts trimmed

Method

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Place the shrimp in a saucepan with enough water to cover, squeeze one lemon half into the water, then drop it in. Bring to a boil, remove from the heat, and let stand 1 minute. Drain. When cool enough to handle, peel and devein the shrimp.

Place the shrimp in a blender or food processor, add the juice of the remaining lemon half, the scallions, water chestnuts, horseradish, nutmeg, salt, and pepper and blend till the ingredients are finely ground. Scrape into a mixing bowl.

In a small bowl, beat the egg white with an electric mixer till stiff peaks form, then fold into the shrimp mixture.

Cut each slice of toast into three strips, spread each strip with the shrimp mixture, place the strips on one or two ungreased baking sheets, and bake till lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve hot or at room temperature.