Shrimp sliders recipe: Perfect for your next cookout

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Cookout season is upon us, and what's one of the first things that pops into my head when I think about cookouts? Burgers! They're one of the best forms of finger food and a staple of summer cookout foods.

Contrary to what many people may think, burgers don't always have to include just beef, or any meat at all, for that matter. Start thinking outside the box and get creative with your burgers: from ground lamb or chicken to portobello mushrooms or seafood. Then find some fun condiment combinations to top them with to enhance their flavor. Why not make your own condiment for your burgers to elevate their gourmet factor?

I experimented with using shrimp as the protein for my latest burger concoction and made them into sliders (which also work as fun little appetizers). To bind the chopped shrimp I had to use some cracker crumbs, mayo and an egg, to end up with a crab cake-like patty. Just be sure, if you make a burger with shrimp, crab or fish, to not use too much breadcrumb filling in your mixture because you don't want to end up with a dense product. Think: more meat to filler in your burger mix ratio.

These shrimp sliders can be baked, grilled, or pan-fried. If you're going to grill them, just be sure to thoroughly spray your grill down with non-stick grill spray before placing the patties down (see below for further cooking instructions).

Get creative in the kitchen and start thinking of new ways to do burgers at your next cookout!

Shrimp Sliders

(makes 12 sliders or 4 full-sized burgers; adapted from this recipe from the May issue of Southern Living Magazine)

1 1/4 pounds unpeeled, medium-size raw shrimp

Non-stick cooking spray

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon mayonnaise

2 teaspoons lemon juice

A few dashes of hot sauce (i.e.: Louisiana, Texas Pete, etc.)

2 teaspoons Old Bay seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

3 tablespoons chopped scallions, green and white parts

1 1/4 cups crushed crackers (about 1 sleeve or 24 crackers; I used Ritz crackers)

12 mini burger buns, split (I found some at the Super Target Bakery)

Toppings: tartar sauce, sliced red onions, cucumber slices (at least 24)

Shrimp Mixture:

1. Peel, devein, and chop up the shrimp (not too small, though).

2. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and coat it with cooking spray.

3. Stir together egg and next 8 ingredients: mayo through scallions. Fold in shrimp and cracker crumbs (mixture will be thick).

4. Shape into 12 (2-inch-wide, 1/2-inch-thick) patties. Place patties on prepared pan. Cover and chill 1 to 24 hours. If grilling: transfer to freezer, and freeze for 30 minutes (this is so they hold their shape and don't fall apart during cooking).

To Bake:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place baking sheet with shrimp patties in the oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until firm and shrimp have turned pink.

To Grill:

Coat cold cooking grate of grill with cooking spray, and place on grill. Preheat grill to 350° to 400° (medium-high) heat. Grill burgers, covered with grill lid, 4 to 5 minutes or until burgers lift easily from cooking grate using a large spatula. Turn burgers, and grill 4 to 5 minutes or until shrimp turn pink and burgers are cooked through and lightly crisp.

To Pan-Fry:

Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook shrimp patties 4 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels.

To Finish:

Place shrimp patties on bottom halves of buns, top with tartar sauce, red onions, and 2 cucumber slices each.

Here are some more great burger ideas to try:

The Bistro Burger (one of my recipes)

Adobo Quesadilla Burger With Grilled Corn Salsa

Barack Obama Pizza Burger

Black Bean Burger

Crab Burger Po' Boys

Smoky Bison Burgers

Scallop Burger Sliders with Cilantro-Lime Mayo

Lamb Burger Pitas with Two-Pepper Chutney

Mediterranean Portobello Burger

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