Sousing, a cooking method whereby seafood is completely immersed and simmered in a highly seasoned pickling liquid, can be traced back to the classical Greek kitchen and was most surely introduced to the South by the first English settlers. To souse, of course, is little more than to marinate, but from Brunswick, Georgia, to Panama City, Florida, to Gulfport, Mississippi, to virtually any other Southern coastal town, when shrimp, scallops, chunks of fish, and other seafood are prepared in this manner, sousing is the term you’ll most likely hear. Soused seafood might well grace a formal dinner buffet in places like Wilmington and Charleston, but at fish fries, oyster roasts, and even pig pickin’s, you’re just as likely to see a big platter of soused shrimp as baskets of hush puppies or cornbread. One tip: to prevent the ingredients in any soused dish from becoming discolored, always use highly acidic white vinegar.
In a large enameled or stainless-steel saucepan, combine the vinegar, onions, celery, sugar, cloves, salt, and peppercorns, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp, return the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to moderate, cover, and simmer the shrimp for 1 minute. Remove pan from the heat and let the shrimp cool in the liquid. Pour the mixture into a large glass bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight.
When ready to serve, peel and pit the avocados, cut into 1-inch cubes, add to the shrimp along with the capers, and toss gently. Drain the liquid from the bowl, line a large serving platter with lettuce leaves, spoon the salad in the center, and sprinkle the chives over the top. Serve chilled or at room temperature.
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