From America's Test Kitchen
Most shrimp salads drown in a sea of mayonnaise, in part to hide the rubbery, flavorless boiled shrimp. We wanted perfectly cooked shrimp without the extra work of grilling, roasting, or sautéing. And we needed to coat them with the perfect deli-style dressing—something creamy that wouldn’t mask the shrimp flavor or drown out the other ingredients.
Overcooking is the culprit when shrimp turn out rubbery. We found that starting the shrimp in cold water combined with lemon, parsley, tarragon, pepper, sugar, and salt, then cooking them over very gentle heat, resulted in tender shrimp. The longer cooking time enabled the poaching liquid to add more flavor to the shrimp. Because the shrimp were now flavorful on their own, we didn’t want to mask them with dressing, so we scaled back the mayonnaise to a modest amount. Celery added a nice crunch, and shallot, herbs, and lemon juice perked up and rounded out the flavors.
This recipe can also be prepared with large shrimp (26/30); the cooking time will be 1 to 2 minutes less. The shrimp can be cooked up to 24 hours in advance, but hold off on dressing the salad until ready to serve. The recipe can be easily doubled; cook the shrimp in a 7-quart Dutch oven and increase the cooking time to 12 to 14 minutes. Serve the salad on a bed of greens or on a buttered and grilled bun.