Poached Shrimp with Easy Lemon Aioli

A white plate with a pile of pink shrimp and a small white bowl of lemon aioli

If there was a poster child for easy, elegant entertaining, this would be it. 

by Erin Henderson

Do you remember the first time you made something that really wowed? A dish that was so impressive and met with such enthusiasm it has stayed in your repertoire ever since?

This is one of mine. 

I was in my late 20's, working downtown Toronto as a news reporter and very much influenced by the intoxicatingly cosmopolitan lives of the Sex and the City ladies (the original – which aired Fridays at midnight, and I would race home from anchoring the 11:00 news. There was no such thing as On Demand back in those dark days.)

Anyway, a friend of a friend invited me to her condo for a sophisticated bridal shower. I offered to make shrimp, because, well, that's what urban sophisticates do. 

Shelling out a good chunk of change on my newly professional salary for sustainable seafood, I sweated over a steaming pot of water in my tiny, galley kitchen, wondering how to know when shrimp are fully cooked and worried about giving the whole bridal party salmonella.  

Well, my worry was for naught, as not only did the group remain upright and dignified (well... as dignified as a bridal party full of 20-somethings can be), there was not a shrimp tail left. Anxiety abated, I tucked the recipe away for future use, and 20+ years later, it’s still in heavy rotation.

Of course, I’ve updated and edited along the way, and here are some ideas that I think make this great dish all the better:

Poached Shrimp with Easy Lemon Aioli

For the poaching liquid, you can use whatever you’ve got on hand: celery, carrots, garlic, onion, leek, fennel, peppercorn, parsley…whatever you like and in whatever combination. Just be sure to give your broth plenty of time to steep so the flavours really come together to infuse the shrimp with lots of flavour.

Estimate about four or five medium shrimp, and a tablespoon of sauce, per person.

Serves: 8-10 as part of a larger buffet
Chef level: easy

  • 1lb, 31-35 shrimp, raw and preferably peel on (it keeps them tender and flavourful)
  • 2 cups dry white wine, like Sauvignon Blanc
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 1 celery rib, halved lengthwise
  • 1 carrot halved length wise
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 2-3 large, dried bay leaves
  • Tbsp whole peppercorns
  • Tbsp fennel seeds
  • Tbsp coriander seeds
  • A few sprigs fresh parsley
  • Small handful salt
How to Make It: 
  1. Tie the herbs into a cheesecloth (this will make it easier to remove later).
  2. Into a large pot add 2 litres of water, the white wine, squeeze the juice from the lemon halves then add them in, too.
  3. Add the all the poaching vegetables and the bundle of herbs.
  4. Allow the water to come to a boil, add salt, and reduce heat to a simmer, bubbling gently for 20-30 minutes until all the flavours start to infuse into the water.
  5. When ready, bring the pot back to a boil. Prepare a large bowl of water and ice.
  6. Add the shrimp, cooking until just pink, about a minute or two.
  7. Immediately remove the shrimp and plunge into the ice bath to stop the cooking.
  8. Drain and peel the shrimp (leaving on the tails as little handles) and serve with aioli.
Easy Lemon Aioli

Aioli is simply a lemon garlic mayonnaise. For the rushed, ditch whipping the eggs and oil (who will it really impress, anyway?) as this is just as good with quality, store-bought mayo.

I’m not partial to raw garlic in my food – especially at a social affair where I may be looking to impress. So, to get the garlic flavour without its knock-out punch to my breath, I use my salad dressing hack: I steep a cut clove of garlic in the lemon juice for 15 minutes or so and then remove it. All flavour, no fire. 

When serving with shrimp I like a little wink of horseradish as a nod to the classic cocktail sauce. I think the tease of heat works well, but feel free to omit, if you’re not feeling the vibe.

Makes: ½ cup
Chef level: easy

  • ½ c good quality mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp Dijon
  • 1 tsp garlic oil
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Zest of half a lemon
  • S+P to taste
  • 1 tsp horseradish, optional
How to Make It: 
  1. Into a bowl, stir all ingredients together, adjusting seasoning to your taste. Serve.
Wine Pairing

This is likely being served with some nod to celebration, whether it's New Year's Eve or backyard graduation party. Bubbles are always a good idea for any festive occasion, and brut Champagne (or a less expensive traditional method dry sparkling wine) pick up the bright notes of the lemon. And the racy acidity in the fizz help mop up the rich fat of the aioli. 

Hear From Real People!

You were such an awesome host and I appreciate all of the work you put into it. Thank you so much again!
Wow, Emily was absolutely fantastic! She was patient, explained the wines well, and was a delight to work with.

Thank you so much for everything I will definitely use your services again.
You were great and hilarious, and made everyone feel comfortable. Appreciate your time with me and helping pull this event together.
Bravo! You were awesome and I loved the presentation, explanation and selection of wines! I just had to reach out and thank you for a wonderful evening. You two are fabulous – great energy and you really like what you do.  You make tasting wine fun!
Our guests had a great evening and Erin made sure that everyone (even non-drinkers) enjoyed themselves! Thanks for making the bridal shower so memorable!
I wanted to thank you again for last night. Everyone had a great time, and I received a lot of compliments, on your behalf. You struck a great balance between being informational and entertaining. 10 out of 10.
Thank you very much for your services. Everyone had a fantastic time and loved everything! Thank you again for a successful event and making me look oh so good.
Everything was perfect and very personalized! We still talk about experience and how nice it was. Definitely memories our family will treasure forever.
Everybody had a ton of fun and we very much see this structure as a template we can use with clients and friends in the future.
Great energy, sense of humour and very knowledgeable! Thank you for making it an afternoon to remember!

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