Monday, January 18, 2021

Let's Fry!



I love shrimp.  And I always have a freezer full of it so a shrimp meal is only a thaw away.  Now, you can boil shrimp, steam 'em, grill 'em, sauté 'em, or bake 'em (Did I miss a method?  Oh,  ceviche 'em!) But for me, fried shrimp is the way to go.

When I was first starting to cook, sometime back in the dark ages, frying actually scared me.  Basically, I didn't know what I was doing.  But then I learned.  And now I know.  And I’m sharing with you.

You need a good heavy pot for your oil.  I use a heavy duty commercial grade aluminum pot.  It has an 8-inch diameter and a 4-inch depth.  I pour in about 2 1/2 inches of peanut oil.

You need an oil with a high smoke point.  The smoke point of an oil is the temperature at which the oil goes from merely shimmering to smoking, or burning, and breaking down.  When an oil breaks down, it releases chemicals that will give your food a bitter or burnt flavor.  Different oils have different smoke points, varying from a fairly low 300° to upwards of 500°.  Also, the smoke point of a particular oil can vary 50 or so degrees depending on multiple factors, say the age of the oil, field or growing conditions, fatty acid composition, and the levels of refinement and filtration.  For example, butter has a low smoke point - about 300° and it will burn fairly easily. If you clarify butter by removing the milk solids, you raise the smoke point considerably.  Extra virgin olive oil also has a low smoke point - around 325° - 375°, depending on the oil.  Coconut oil runs about 350°.  Vegetable shortening about 360°.  Vegetable oils can run 400°- 450°.  For deep frying, I use peanut oil, with a smoke point of approximately 450°.

You need to monitor the temperature of your oil.  Deep-frying is all about temperature control.  I use an an instant-read, infra-red digital thermometer so I know exactly what my oil temperature is.  For frying shrimp, I use peanut oil heated to 360°-375° and I fry in batches.  It’s important not to crowd the pan, thus lowering the temperature.  I fry 5-6 shrimp at a time, cook for a minute or two depending on the size of the shrimp, then remove the shrimp, let the oil come back to temperature, and add in the next batch.  Maintaining proper temperature is paramount to frying.  If your temperature is too hot, your food will burn on the outside before it cooks through.  If your temperature is too low, your outside crust forms too slowly and the food absorbs more fat, retains more moisture, and becomes soggy and greasy.

Here's my set-up.
From top left moving clockwise:

  • My peeled and de-tracted large shrimp (I say de-tracted, not de-veined.  That black line going down the back of the shrimp is the digestive tract, not a vein.  Get rid of it.)  And I like to leave the tails on for little handles.
  • My wet batter.
  • My dry coating
  • My shrimp, battered and coated, waiting to be fried.

For the wet batter:
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup buttermilk
1 egg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
few grinds pepper
1 TB water 
Whisk all together until smooth.

For the dry coating:
Equal amounts breadcrumbs (unseasoned) and potato flakes  (I had about 2 dozen large shrimp and used 1/2 cup each.)
a shake or two or three of Old Bay seasoning
Mix well.

Peel and de-tract shrimp, leaving tails intact.
Prepare wet batter.  Should have the consistency of a thin pancake batter.  Holding shrimp by tails, dip in batter and shake excess off. 
Dredge shrimp through coating.
Heat oil to around 370°.  Carefully drop shrimp into hot oil, one at a time, working in small batches so as not to lower the temperature of the oil.  About 60-90 seconds is all you need until golden brown.  Remove shrimp and drain on racks. 

Rosie Note:  For the dry coating you could go with panko.  I happened to have the potato flakes and decided to use them.  (I would never use potato flakes for making mashed potatoes.  I use them only as a fry coating and they work quite nicely.)  ALSO, if you wanted to add some coconut flakes (equal parts crumbs and coconut) to the mix, you can't go wrong. I'd recommend pressing the coconut on the shrimp.  If you decide on coconut fried shrimp, I'd go with a sweet dipping sauce instead of what I've provided here, which is your basic cocktail sauce with a twist.  For a sweet sauce for coconut fried shrimp, check out this one:
Pineapple/orange marmalade dip:
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh pineapple (You could use canned, but I had fresh and there's nothing better than fresh.)
1/4 cup orange marmalade
1 TB brown sugar
1 TB rice vinegar
1 TB horseradish
juice of one lime
1 TB soy sauce
1 TB Gray Poupon Dijon mustard
1 TB Thai Chili sauce
Combine all in a small saucepan.  Bring to boil, then simmer a few minutes.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Stir in 2 TB chopped red onion.

Now for the step-by-steps:

Dip shrimp in batter and shake off excess.

Dredge battered shrimp through crumb mixture.

Shrimp is ready for frying.


Drop shrimp into hot oil one at a time.

Doesn't take long.

Let drain.



Serve with a basic cocktail sauce - ketchup, horseradish, Lea & Perrins, and lemon juice. Maybe a splash of Tabasco.  Amounts are up to you, depending on your tastes.  Also I never totally combine a cocktail sauce.  I'll half-ass mix it, leaving what I like to call "pockets of flavor."

OR, you can serve it with this "hybrid" dipping sauce.

Dipping sauce for fried shrimp: 
1/4 cup ketchup
2 TB mayonnaise
1-2 TB horseradish (depending on how hot you like it)
juice of half a lemon
1 TB Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
a few shakes of Old Bay seasoning
a few shakes of cayenne
Mix all together.  Taste test and adjust according to your tastes.

Now, there are your pockets of flavor!


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