Shrimp, a hot sauce dressing, and Old bay breadcrumbs make for a salad that's got the po'boy flavor in a different format.

Updated March 11, 2020
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Greg DuPree

Iceberg lettuce is an unpopular lettuce these days. In the era of baby kale and spinach and radicchio, even after the romaine scares of 2019, iceberg is underloved. I get it. For years it was the default lettuce, and its main quality is to be refreshing and crunchy, not to bring a lot of herbaceous flavor to the plate. But there are certain dishes where iceberg isn’t just an option— it’s essential. Yes, I’m talking about a wedge salad

A wedge salad is a divisive genre of not just because of its controversial base lettuce, but because it’s a salad that functions differently than most other assemblages of leaves and fruits and croutons. You need a fork and a knife to eat it, and rather than having elements evenly distributed through the dish, it’s more of an assemble-your-own-bite situation. But that’s a feature, not a bug, particularly when I want a dish that’s as greens-intensive as a salad, but as filling as a sandwich. That’s why I was so jazzed to see this Shrimp Wedge Salad with Old Bay Bread Crumbs and Hot Sauce Dressing, because it is exactly what I want in that situation: a po’boy, but in salad form.

Breadcrumbs, Not Croutons

The traditional steakhouse wedge salad, the default wedge if you will, has blue cheese, bacon, a creamy dressing, and maybe some croutons. It’s great! But it doesn’t have to be the only way to wedge. You can build in all kinds of flavors into the wedge salad, with the crispy canvas of iceberg lettuce at the center. In this recipe, Associate Food Editor Kelsey Youngman swaps croutons for bread crumbs, since the smaller bits allow the Old Bay seasoning flavors to permeate every bite. 

A Spicy-Creamy Dressing

The dressing for this might not sound like much: mayonnaise, whole milk, and hot sauce. But in combination, they make for a dressing that’s perfect for this salad, like having an extra-creamy drizzle of hot sauce on a fully dressed po’ boy. Crystal hot sauce, which Youngman uses, is a beloved Louisiana hot sauce that isn’t all that spicy. But if you wanted things to be a bit spicier, you can swap in one you’d prefer instead. Just go for one that’s got a thinner viscosity. She also adds capers for a pop of brininess to offset the creamy, hot sauce-infused dressing.

Seasoned, Quickly Cooked Shrimp

With good fresh shrimp, you don’t need a whole lot. Youngman just uses salt and pepper, and cooks them for a minute or two per side, until they’re cooked through but still tender. 

Put ‘Em All Together

The result is a salad that manages to be simultaneously hearty and refreshing. It’s filling enough to be a lunch, but not so filling that you will need a nap. It has a bit of spice from the Old Bay, and from the hot sauce in the dressing, but it’s never overwhelming. It’s as close to a good po’ boy as I’m likely to get in my home kitchen, and it means that I can eat it with a knife and fork. Long live iceberg lettuce, and long live the wedge salad—in all its varied incarnations.