Nicolai McCrary is always looking for new food inspiration — on road trips and the Internet, at restaurants and farmers markets, from other photographers and cooks he follows on Instagram.
In July, McCrary, who posts as @thenicolai on Instagram and blogs at nicolaieats.com, found some heirloom tomatoes at a farmers market and decided to put his own twist on shrimp toast, a dim sum favorite that is usually served with minced or pureed shrimp spread on top.
McCrary got to work transforming his tomatoes into tomato jam by simmering them with black peppercorns, fennel seed, salt, cayenne pepper and sugar. After more than an hour on the stove, the ketchup-like jam thickened, and McCrary let it chill while he made another condiment for his fancy toast: pickled mustard seed.
Chefs love this tangy topping because it adds a pop of texture and acid to any dish, but not many home cooks make them at home. Whole mustard seeds can be bitter, so to start, McCrary took 1/2 cup mustard seeds and covered them in a small pot with about 1/2 inch of water. He brought the seeds to a boil, poured off the water and repeated this process seven or eight times.
After the bitterness was cooked out and the seeds were nice and plump with all that water, McCrary put them in a jar and added 1/2 cup champagne vinegar, 1/2 Tbsp. sugar and 1 tsp. salt. Close the jar with a lid, shake and then refrigerate for at least a day.
With the components of the dish ready, McCrary heated up his grill to cook the shrimp, minimally seasoned with salt, pepper and olive oil. He also grilled slices of sourdough bread and layered them with the tomato jam, sliced shrimp and mustard seeds for a “Top Chef”-worthy toast.
Every week, we shine the spotlight on what you’re making at home in this Austin360Cooks series. One of the easiest ways to participate is to tag your social media posts with #Austin360Cooks, but you can also call or email with your latest adventures in the kitchen.