Shrimp Cobb Salad with Creamy Basil Dressing

Looking for a light and refreshing salad? Try this Shrimp Cobb Salad with a little tropical flair from mangoes and the salty bite of cotija cheese.

We all love the traditional Cobb Salad made with lettuce, bacon, avocados, cooked chicken, hard-boiled eggs and blue cheese dressing, but sometimes you just gotta break the rules.

This version of Cobb Salad keeps the spirit of the familiar assembled plate of vegetables and protein, but subs in a variety of new elements. Large cooked shrimp stand in for the chicken; we lose the hard boiled eggs, but we keep the bacon, avocados and tomatoes.

Cucumbers add a refreshing crunch, and the tropical addition of mango adds just a touch of sweetness. I finish the whole thing off a salty, crumbly Mexican cheese called cotija and basil dressing.

Not only does this salad scream summer, but the dressing ties all the flavors together with its herby, creamy essence.

HOW TO BUY SHRIMP

Since ‘fresh’ shrimp is pretty much nonexistent because almost all shrimp are frozen immediately after harvest, I always pick up frozen shrimp.

That shrimp in the seafood case at the supermarket? It is simply frozen shrimp that has been defrosted.

Shrimp is quite perishable, and there’s no way to know how long ago it was thawed. For that reason, I like to buy frozen shrimp and defrost it myself when it’s time to cook (plunk it in a bowl of cold water for 15 minutes).

For this recipe, I prefer large (16-20 per pound) shrimp to small ones because I like the statement they make on the plate (and there are fewer to peel, too!). You can also just purchase cooked and peeled shrimp of any size and skip the cooking and peeling.

HOW TO COOK SHRIMP

To cook shrimp, follow one hard and fast rule: do not boil them! Delicate proteins in shrimp seize, shrink, and become rubbery when subjected to high temperatures.

To poach shrimp, the water temperature should be between 165 and 175 degrees, the temperature obtained after you drop cold shrimp into simmering liquid.

If you want to cook a lot of shrimp, do it in batches of about one pound each to ensure even cooking.

The shells of unpeeled shrimp do the best job of protecting the shrimp from overcooking. If you’re cooking peeled shrimp, subtract a minute from the cooking directions in this recipe.

HOW TO SERVE THE SALAD

An assembled salad has a lot of eye appeal. For a serious wow factor, arrange the ingredients on a platter in the pattern of your choice and serve the dressing on the side. The individual components don’t have to line up like soldiers; so let those creative juices flow.

If you want to make the salad ahead, you can pack each element in containers, refrigerate them and assemble the salad just before serving. They will keep in the fridge for at least a day, though you might want to cut the avocado shortly before serving to keep it from turning brown.

Use the same strategy if you are planning a picnic, and bring along a platter to set up your pretty salad display.

  • Farmers’ Market Salad with Peaches, Goat Cheese, and Basil
  • Thai Noodle Salad with Peanut Sauce
  • Napa Cabbage Picnic Salad
  • Lentil Salad with Summer Vegetables
  • Classic Cobb Salad

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