Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Guilty Pleasures

We all have our guilty pleasures. Being a true son of Louisiana, one of mine is fried food. If we can fit it into the pot, we fry it down home, and nobody does it better.

If I was going to the electric chair, the first item on my last meal menu would be two pounds of fried Gulf shrimp ... what the hell, I'm gonna die anyway.

The picture is stock -- I ate the last batch I did before they could get cold -- going to fetch the camera would have taken too long.

Here's how I make mine:

Take two pounds of shrimp. (Serves two, if one isn't very hungry.) Shell them yourself and leave a bit of the tail shell on, or if you can't get fresh ones, you can get a bag from Costco.

There are two tricks to making them Louisiana-style. First is the batter.

There are all kinds of ways to make this. Some people mix it up wet, some do a wash and roll them into dry ingredients, some do double-coating. What works best for me is to blend an egg with milk or cream -- Half-and-Half works -- with a whisk in a bowl. Drop ten or twelve shrimp into this at a time and work them around. You can add a dash of Tabasco if you want.

My breading: Half a cup of white flour. Half a cup of corn flour. Half a cup of medium-ground cornmeal. A dash of whole-wheat flour or pancake mix. A tablespoon of Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning. Dash of lemon pepper. Put the dry ingredients into a big plastic bag.

Pour a bottle of cooking oil into a deep pot. You'll need most of a big bottle -- doesn't matter if it is corn, peanut, or canola oil, though olive oil tends to burn at the temperature you need.

Use a big burner on your stove and crank the heat all the way up. The oil has to be hot before you start cooking, that's the second trick. To test it, drop a pinch of your breading into it. When it bubbles and hisses, the oil is ready. If you drop a shrimp into it and the critter falls to the bottom and bubbles not, that's bad.

Put the shrimp into the plastic bag, close the top -- this is important -- CLOSE THE TOP -- and shake things up until the shrimp are coated with the flour-meal-seasoning mix.

Remove the shrimp from the bag and put them into the hot oil. Be careful whilst you do else you will fry your hand.

Let them cook for a minute, then stir them. You can use a slotted steel spoon, but I have a tool that looks like a round spatula full of holes I like. Something that will allow you to reach under and lift the shrimp but allow the oil to drip back into the pot. A fry basket will work if you have one. You don't need to turn them over if the oil is deep enough and you need at least three inches in the bottom of the pot.

Time varies as the oils get hotter and the volume decreases. It can run three or four minutes, sometimes more. Best way to judge them is by color. (Note that shrimp with corn meal in the batter take longer to get dark than those cooked in flour alone. You want a nice golden color. Deep brown here means they are overcooked.)

When they are done, lift them out, put them on something to soak up the excess oil. You can use newspaper, brown paper bags, or some combination thereof, with a paper towel pressed on top. I like to stack a couple days worth of newspaper, and as each batch of cooked shrimp comes out, slide them onto a dry section and toss the oil-soaked one.

If you are feeling particularly healthy and can afford to ruin it, you can do some onion rings using the same method. Better to double-dip these, or use a wet batter, but they'll work okay doing them the same way as the shrimp.

You can use plain ketchup, tartar sauce, or cocktail sauce as a condiment. I make the last by mixing ketchup, mustard, Tabasco, horse radish, a dash of soy sauce, and lemon juice. Not too hot but if you like it that way, it's easy to heat up.

This process, by the by, is messy. Your house will smell like fried shrimp, there will be oil and flour and cornmeal dust hither and yon. You'll burn up four bucks worth of oil and while you can strain it and re-use it for frying again, you probably won't -- I never do, having gotten all the fried I'm allowed for at least a month.

Your arteries will clog if you do this too often. It is a rare indulgence for me these days, but I sure do enjoy it when I give in to my addiction.

Bon appetit!


John Hoey said...

*drool* Oh sweet Jaysus *drool* I'm Irish and we fry "everything" (well maybe not as much as the Scots, them boys batter & deep fry Mars bars!) Thats some good eating there but unfortunately my missus hates sea food so I'm just gonna print out the picture & drool over it.....gastro porn!

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Oooohhhhhhh...Steve...I think I'm sexually aroused.

I'll bring the booze if you fry the shrimp. Hell, I'll even bring the shrimp, you just fry the crustacean bastards.

Bobbe Edmonds said...

>"this is important -- CLOSE THE TOP"<

...Writing for the southern crowd, are 'ya?

Steve Perry said...

No, the Confederates know this trick already. It's for the Yankees who think seafood is thick white soup.

Dan Gambiera said...

Dear G-d, can we cut a deal? I'll give up cauliflower and okra if you'll put shrimp back on the Kosher list...

Bobbe Edmonds said...

Hah! I gave up cauliflower and okra years ago!

..Of course, MY God tends to frown on eating seafood...Especially anything with tentacles...

Steve Perry said...

Gave up okra? How you gonna eat gumbo or jambalaya without okra? Are you barking mad?

Of the many things that sometimes bug me about religion, keeping kosher is one. There's no reason to do so except that the Torah says you should, and Kashrut makes no sense to me, save maybe the old worms-in-pork problem.

If God doesn't have anything better to do that worry about what people eat? He needs to get out more.

People believe what they believe and it's not my place to argue with somebody's faith, but this one is a head-shaker.

Dan Moran said...

Damn, now I'm hungry.

We're going out to dinner later today. I expect I can get some shrimp, but probably not anything that satisfies the image you just created in my head and gut ...

steve-vh said...

Did someone mention OKRA?
Steve, you got a recipe for fried Okra?
My buddy from Missisippi had his mother make it for us and I've never found better.
'course, coulda been the tub o' lard on the stove that added the extra flavor too.
All I remember was the cornmeal.

Steve Perry said...

Pretty much you can fry okra same way you do shrimp. Some folks like more breading, ala tempura, but I like it crunchy, so the cornmeal is a must.

You can do green tomatoes this way, too.

Or ... anything ...