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The Idiot in the Kitchen column chronicles the learning curve of a culinary novice.

Munching a shrimp salad roll while lounging oceanside, waves lapping at my feet, is a favorite summer fantasy.

I don't often get to the beach, but this summer I definitely will be indulging the first part of that fantasy, eating many warm, buttered hot dog buns jammed with lobster's less expensive cousin.

Like a great lobster roll, a shrimp salad roll needs little more than celery, mayo and a few seasonings. I like my mayo mixed with cornichons and capers for a subtle tang.

Naturally, picking and preparing the shrimp is key. Yes, for a quick and easy salad you can buy shrimp already shelled and cooked, but I prefer to do it all at home.

That's partly because prepared shrimp is pricier than raw, in-the-shell shrimp. And, pre-cooked shrimp rapidly loses flavor once it's been refrozen, thawed and put in the display case.

As a compromise, you could get raw shrimp that have been shelled for you, cutting your work a bit.

Fresh, raw shrimp should be firm, have a shiny, brittle shell and little odor. If you smell ammonia, pass. I use one pound of medium shrimp, which generally run 35 to 40 shrimp a pound.

If you do buy shrimp still in the shell, here's the best way to prepare them: Boil the shell-on shrimp in seasoned water, then rinse them in cold water to stop the cooking process.

To peel them, start at the head and remove the shell section-by-section working down the tail. Then pinch the tail at the bottom to push the meat up and free it from the shell.

If there is a dark "vein" - it's really the digestive track - running down the back of the shrimp, you can remove it by making a small cut with a paring knife lengthwise and pulling it out. But most veins fall out during cooking and with medium and small shrimp it's barely noticeable. I never bother.

Let the shrimp fully cool in the fridge. Who wants warm shrimp salad? You'll find the contrast between the warm bun and cool salad refreshing.

Shrimp salad rolls

Start to finish: 1 hour 20 minutes (20 minutes active)

3 cups water

1 bay leaf

1 clove garlic, halved

1/2 small yellow onion, cut in two

1 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (thawed if frozen)

1/2 cup mayonnaise

2 cornichons, finely minced (about 1 tablespoon)

1 teaspoon minced capers

1/2 teaspoon whole-grain mustard

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

1 teaspoon finely chopped chives

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 1/2 ribs of celery, finely chopped

4 hot dog buns

In a medium saucepan, combine the water, bay leaf, garlic and onion. Bring to a boil, then add the shrimp, cover and cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until pink and firm.

Drain the shrimp and rinse under cold water. Refrigerate until well chilled, about an hour.

When ready to serve, in a small bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, cornichons, capers, mustard, lemon juice, parsley and chives. Season with salt and pepper.

In a larger bowl, mix together the shrimp, mayonnaise sauce and

celery. Adjust salt and pepper as needed.

In a toaster or on a hot skillet coated with butter or cooking spray, toast the hot dog buns. Divide the shrimp salad between the buns and serve immediately.

• Makes 4 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 365 calories; 124 calories from fat; 14 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 180 mg cholesterol; 31 g carbohydrate; 28 g protein; 2 g fiber; 819 mg sodium.

Kitchen Idiot Howie Rumberg can be e-mailed at

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