Spicy Fried Shrimp Po’Boys
If I were to offer you any unsolicited advice worth taking it would be: live in a city with a sandwich.
Now if you’re smart… you’ll live in a city with multiple sandwiches. Top of mind that means that the most successful living takes place in both New Orleans (for its po’boys and bless-ed muffulettas) and Philadelphia (for its cheesesteaks, truly important roast pork sandwiches, and for the way people in Philly pronounce hoagie more than a hoagie itself… ya feel me?).
The heavens also shine their light down upon Miami and its Cuban sandwich and for that we are grateful.
If Los Angeles were to have a sandwich, the people of Venice would probably be out in force signing petitions to call Avocado Toast a sandwich though none of us are here for that. The French Dip is arguably the sandwich of Los Angeles and if you’ve been going to Philippe’s for as long as I have… you know exactly what I’m talking about.
The deli sandwiches in New York are enough to make me consider relocating but maybe that’s just a function of a marble rye. Probably.
Save for the likely dozens of notable sandwiches I’ve missed, I think you get my point. Get thee to a place with a sandwich. Hunker down and never leave. Life will start to make more sense.
And with that, may I present you with a recipe for this New Orleans darling: The Fried Shrimp Po’Boy. Homemade with due reverence because I think we should all be so lucky.
Here’s what you’ll need for this quintessential sandwich:
• a 40-inch loaf of fresh, soft, pliable French bread. This is something you buy the morning you’re making this sandwich. I wish there was another way but honestly… there’s a wrong way and a right way and – this is the right way.
• a pound of peeled and deveined shrimp that you can twist the tails off of.
• eggs, four of them.
• hot sauce and creole or whole grain mustard.
• all-purpose flour, fine ground corneal (don’t use the coarse stuff here), and cornstarch. The combination adds solid coating (flour), texture, (cornmeal), and a light crispness (cornstarch).
• creole seasoning, salt and pepper – an aggressive amount because it takes a lot of spice to translate onto the shrimp.
• shredded iceberg lettuce – do it, don’t be fancy.
• sliced tomatoes.
• thinly sliced red onions soaked in vinegar to soften and lightly pickle.
• and let’s go!
We’ll start by mixing together the wet ingredients that will act as a glue (flavorful is the intention) for our shrimp.
Four large eggs plus a good dose of either Tabasco or Crystal Hot Sauce.
We’ll add a good dose of creole or whole grain mustard too. We want to flavor every element that we’re using to coat the shrimp. The doses of spice and flavor might seem aggressive in the bowl, but only a small amount is going to make its way onto the shrimp. In other words, don’t be scared.
Now let’s bring together the dry ingredients. It starts with flour. (You could use a gluten-free flour mix if that’s your preference.)
Cornmeal, fine cornmeal for texture and a bit of grit.
Cornstarch to help lighten the texture and create a nice crunch as it fries.
And Creole seasoning.
Now… creole seasoning is a magical mixture of white pepper, black pepper, paprika, garlic and onion powder, and sprinkles and sparkles that is proportioned into perfection using both spells and wizardry. Miraculously we can buy it in containers with shake tops and use it in our home kitchen. It really is such a wonder that we’ll use aggressively in this flour mixture.
Salt and pepper too… because we’re extra, so what?
Whisk the ingredients together and gather the ingredients plus a sheet pan (for the dipped shrimp) and a platter (for the finished fried shrimp).
This is a back-and-forth-forever situation.
We’ll toss the de-tailed shrimp in the dry ingredients first.
The shrimp should be moist (sorry) enough to hold onto a bit of the flour mixture.
Next, the lightly coated shrimp go into the spicy egg wash and… you guessed it – back into the flour mixture.
We’re creating a sturdy double coating.
I used a medium, shallow skillet (can you see it there on the stove behind me?) to fry these shrimp in about 1 1/2 inches of oil. You want a bit of room so these darlings float and fry.
I’ve had the most success using a fry / candy thermometer so I can keep track of the temperature of the oil – making sure the shrimp cooks through and comes to golden in about the same amount of time. 350 degrees F is clutch for a two minute fry.
When the shrimp is fried – after we’ve snacked on a few – it’s time to assemble the sandwiches.
A 40-inch french loaf is common in Louisiana. They’re baked every morning at our local grocery stores for good reason. These loaves are best eaten the day they’re made.
Same for these sandwiches. They’re best made on bread bought that morning, divided into 4, enjoyed most immediately.
Each sandwich bread is coated in a generous layer of mayonnaise + creole mustard mixture.
Yes it is.
Topped with shrimp most generously. Six or so is a real treat.
Topped with shredded iceberg lettuce and a large pinch of pickled red onion slices.
Thick sliced tomatoes, too.
And finagle it all together into a cohesive sandwich fit for one and all.
I find that this is best served with Zapp’s potato chips and a cold beer. But again… that’s just be with the unsolicited advice.
Sandwich city! Mark my words and honestly – get into one.
- 1 pound peeled, deveined shrimp, tails removed
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup fine cornmeal
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 1/2 tablespoons creole seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
- 4 large eggs
- 2 teaspoons hot sauce (like Tabasco or Crystal)
- 1 teaspoon creole or whole grain mustard
- canola oil for frying
- 1 loaf fresh baked french bread
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons creole or whole grain mustard
- few turns of fresh cracked black pepper
- shredded iceberg lettuce
- sliced red onions, pickled lightly in vinegar
- sliced roma tomatoes
- Place shrimp in a bowl and remove the tails. Return the bowl to the refrigerator and keep the shrimp chilled until we're ready to dredge them.
- In a medium bowl whisk together flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, creole seasoning, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- In a separate medium bowl whisk together eggs, hot sauce, and mustard. Set that aside as well.
- Add oil to a medium saucepan so that the oil is about 2-inches deep. I find it helpful to add a fry thermometer to the oil as it heats over medium heat. The oil should be around 350 degrees F for crisp, golden shrimp.
- As the oil heats, begin to dredge the shrimp. Have a parchment lined sheet pan ready for the dredged shrimp and a platter lined with a few paper towels ready for the cooked shrimp.
- Start but adding a few shrimp at a time to the dry mixture. Coat lightly. The shrimp should have enough moisture on them to attract a light coating of the flour mixture.
- Transfer the lightly coated shrimp to the egg mixture and coat all sides.
- Return the shrimp to the flour mixture for a second, slightly thicker coating before placing the coated shrimp on the parchment lined baking sheet. Repeat until all of the shrimp are coated.
- Back to the oil! See that the temperature is in the 350 - 360 degree F range. Depending on the size of you pan add 4 to 6 shrimp to the hot oil. Fry, using a clean set of tongs or a spider to move the shrimp around the oil until all side of the shrimp are a nice golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove from the oil and place on the paper towel lined platter. Repeat until all the shrimp are fried to golden.
- Slice a large, soft French bread loaf into four equal pieces and slice each piece open in half.
- In a small bowl stir together mayonnaise, mustard, and black pepper. Set aside.
- To assemble the sandwiches spread both sides of each piece of bread with the mayonnaise mixture. Add the fresh shrimp - 6 to 8 shrimp is generous.
- Top with iceberg lettuce, pickled red onion, and sliced tomatoes. Close the sandwich and skewer with a pick if necessary. Enjoy immediately with potato chips!