Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Down in Louisiana, where the alligators grow so mean, if it can be battered and will fit into a pot of hot oil and fried, somebody will eat it.
It's no secret to regular readers here that fried shrimp is at the top of my hit parade list of Last Meal requests.
We all know that fried food is, generally speaking and not to put to fine a point on it, bad for you. I'm gonna indulge anyway, albeit not as often as I once did. The trade off between taste and gustatory satisfaction and listening to your arteries get clogged has to be carefully balanced.
Better, I think to eat the stuff once in a while and for a long time, than frequently and for not-so-long a time. Live slow, die old, leave a hideous corpse, that's my motto.
Um. Been two or three years since I spoke to this (here) So, a reprise of the basic recipe:
Take two pounds of deveined, peeled, tail-on shrimp. Soak them in a wash made of a beaten egg or two, mixed with milk.
Take a large bag–a grocery-paper one will work, but sometimes the bottom will get wet and tear, so plastic is okay. Put into the bag a mix of white flour, corn flour, and finely-ground cornmeal. Add a generous amount of Tony Chachere's Creole seasoning. (If you are asking for it at a store, this latter is pronounced "Sah-shuh-ray." If you can't find it, a mix of black and red pepper with a little salt will do.)
Here's the reasoning on the flours: Corn and cornmeal give the breading a nice texture, but they won't turn a deep brown until after the shrimp gets cooked into shoe leather. The white flour will, and is for color.
Pure white-flour batter shrimp are okay, but just that.
Drop the soaked shrimp, a few at a time, into the dry mix. Close the mouth of the bag and shake them until they are coated. (You'll almost certainly need more of these dry ingredients as you go; once the stuff gets damp, it doesn't coat as well, you so add bits.)
Alternately, for a more tempura-like effect, you can double-dip the shrimp. Take some of that dry mixture, add it to the egg and milk sufficient to make a glue-y batter. Soak the shrimp in that, then drop them into the dry mix. I prefer the lighter coating, but both are delicious.
While this is going on, you should be heating a deep pot of oil on the stove. There should be enough oil in it so the shrimp can float without touching the bottom, so maybe an inch and a half or so. Use a good, high-heat oil–safflower, or canola, even corn, but not olive or anything more delicate. It will smoke and it will burn.
The oil has to be hot before you add the battered shrimp to it. Oil that isn't ready will ruin the meal.
How hot? I dunno, I don't use a thermometer, but enough so a pinch of batter dropped into it starts to sizzle and bubble immediately. If the stuff sinks to to the bottom and doesn't sizzle right away, wait a bit. Me, I crank the burner up to high and leave it there, until I'm done.
Yeah, your house will smell like fried after you are finished. Probably your hair and clothes will, too. Part of the price.
Don't overcrowd the shrimp. I use a heavy, twelve-quart stock pot, and no more than ten or twelve shrimp at a time.
Cook until they are a golden color–see the pictures above–use a slotted spoon or somesuch to stir now and then, then lift them out so the oil drains back into the pot. Put them on newspaper, and several layers thick, so you can keep removing the top greasy layer as you go.
Cocktail/seafood sauce: Mix ketchup, mustard, lemon juice, horseradish, Tabasco, and a dash of Worchestershire sauce.
Sides can be anything, but a garden salad and homemade cornbread are hard to beat.
Well, two, if one of them isn't very hungry ...