As a kid, I spent summers at the Belgian countryside, renting a sprawling weather-beaten beach house with another family, often with a stray friend or cousin in tow. We were usually between 8 and 10 kids sharing bunk beds, laughs, and, one unfortunate summer, head lice. We’d spend the days riding our bikes on the boardwalk, eating ice cream or a warm waffle, collecting shells on the beach, and playing in the dunes dressed in sandy swim suits or our navy blue K-Way anoraks.
Every lunch time, the soup truck would come around, with a bell and a song like an ice cream truck and we’d bring out a big pot to fill with the soup of the day—tomato, leek, carrot, or onion. The older kids would haul it back home for a lunch of soup, sandwiches and fruit.
We had special shrimp nets which we would trawl along the long sandy beach in the hopes of catching delicate North Sea gray shrimp. We hauled them home,teetering in buckets hanging off our bicycle handbars and our parents would cook them up and peel them as an appetizer before dinner while they drank their apéro (pre-dinner drink). If we had an especially abundant haul, we would make tomates aux crevettes. Nothing takes me back to those childhood summer days quite like them and, although we’re miles from the North Sea, I have found a very good substitute for those little gray shrimp: lovely small cold-water shrimp from our Northern neighbors in Denmark (via generisk Swedish super-store IKEA). The key to a good tomate aux crevettes is a well-executed homemade mayonnaise.
2 largish heirloom tomatoes, tops cut off and fleshy inside scooped out with a teaspoon and left upside-down to drain for ½ hour
One 8.8 oz package of frozen peeled Danish cold water shrimp from IKEA
One egg yolk
¾ cup canola oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and pepper
The first step to making an authentic tomates aux crevettes is to make your own mayonnaise. Add the egg yolk and mustard to a medium-sized bowl. With a whisk, very slowly add oil, starting with just a few drops at a time, until the mixture emulsifies. Take your time here. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice, salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.
Mix about ½ the mayonnaise with the shrimp and fill the tomato halves. Garnish with parsley.