Crazily crunchy, wham-bam spiced, fried shrimp, tucked into a crusty-outside-soft-inside French roll with shredded iceberg, heat jolted slices of fresh tomato and a generous slathering of homemade tartar sauce with a devil of a fever. Oh baby!
There I was, just kicking back, totally digging a good listen to the soundtrack of an old favorite Dennis Quaid flick, The Big Easy, when, well, when something inside me snapped.
In a good way.
One minute I was happy groovin' to some fine Zydeco.....when FOOSSSHHH, a bright light flashed me and I was pinned up against a lightning bolt of thoughts. Bam! Bam! Bam!
The Big Easy. New Orleans. I still want to go there one day. A lot. Bourbon Street. Dingy, smoky basement blues bars. Voodoo. Potent, sweet Hurricanes (the drinks not the winds). Voodoo intrigues me. And those bottle trees. Bananas Foster. Shrimp Po' Boys. Brad Pitt (they're my thinks, I will if I want!) Thrumming Jazz. Beignets. Muffulettas. Emeril. Swamps. Mysterious, dangerously ominous swamps. Gators. Jazz riffs. Shrimp Po' Boys. Gumbo. Why haven't I ever made Shrimp Po' Boys?
I MUST MAKE SHRIMP PO' BOYS.
After that there was no stopping me. It was like some kind of voodoo had a spell on me.
In a good way.
I heeded the advice of several po' boy makers and reviewers. There's nothing complex here. It's a sandwich that will make your taste buds 'fais do-do' if you just use fresh, quality ingredients. And love, cher.
Start with fantastic bread. The bread is equally as important as the shrimp. Be sure to get a fresh baguette or French roll with a crackling crust and a rustic, soft interior. Then plump shrimp, fresh lettuce, firm ripe tomatoes and a whimsy of bold spices. For the finishing touch, to bring this baby together, you need some kicked up mayo, a remoulade, or in my case a devilishly dillish, homemade tartar sauce. Oh darlin'.
A good shrimp po' boy is a brazen bundle of delicious textures. Oh honeychil'.
My advice? Make your own hunka, hunka, burnin' shrimp po' boy love soon. 'Cuz I ain't just a whistlin' Dixie.
SHRIMP PO' BOYS with Spicy Homemade Tartar Sauce - Makes 4 sandwiches
Spicy Homemade Tartar Sauce:
1 cup mayonnaise
4 heaping tablespoons, finely chopped dill pickle
3 green onions, finely chopped
3 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons whole grain mustard
1 generous teaspoon fresh dillweed, chopped - or 1/3 teaspoon dried dillweed
1 teaspoon fresh tarragon chopped - or 1/3 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 - 1 teaspoon sriracha or Tabasco (how hot do you like it?)
1/2 teaspoon each sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 pounds large-ish shrimp (16/20 count), peeled, deveined
1 1/4 cups flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tablespoon granulated garlic powder
1 tablespoon granulated onion powder
1 teaspoon sea, Kosher or other salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 tablespoons canned evaporated or other milk
Peanut or vegetable oil for frying
2, 10-inch long French loaves, or baguettes, each cut in half - or 4 crusty French or Italian rolls
3 cups finely shredded iceberg lettuce
2 firm, red, ripe tomatoes, sliced and splashed with a bit of Tabasco and a sprinkling of sea salt
For tartar sauce: Blend all ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours, better for 4, so all the flavours have a chance to get to know one another, to seduce one another, to fall crazy in love and make happy.
Heat at least 1/4-inch oil in a large skillet or preheat deep fryer or oil in wok to approximately 360F degrees.
In a bowl, whisk flour, cornmeal, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, pepper and cayenne. In another small bowl, whisk together eggs and milk.
Working with a few at a time, dredge the shrimp in the seasoned flour, then into the egg wash, then back into the seasoned flour, coating the shrimp completely. Fry the shrimp in the hot oil, in batches, until golden crispy, 2 - 4 minutes. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels.
Slice the French loafs or rolls in half and butter both cut sides. I quickly grilled my rolls in a non-stick skillet, but this extra step is not necessary. Slather both cut sides of bread or rolls with tartar sauce. Divide the shrimp evenly between the 4 sandwiches and top with the tomato slices and shredded lettuce. Press the sandwich together a bit and serve your 'c'est magnifique' shrimp po' boys with icy cold beer, Tabasco and a side of Zydeco, cher.