Saturday, February 5, 2011

Butterflied shrimp

Today we saw the most magnificent shrimp at Costco and couldn't resist picking up 6 of them which, at $13 per pound, ran us a bit more than $8. (I think the vendor was very generous to us.) Then we went home; I was wondering what I'd actually do with them.

Come evening, I knew I couldn't put it off (I'm very superstitious about storing crustaceans in my refrigerator longer than a few hours). On my way up to the kitchen, I decided to butterfly and fry them. Here's the recipe I came up with.

How many per person? We ate three each; I was at the edge. I couldn't eat any more. If they are not the principal foodstuff of your meal, more than two U-8s (8 shrimp per pound) is more than enough per person.

    ½-2 lbs large gauge shrimp (U-8s are perfect, but a bit smaller is fine)

    2 cups water
    2 eggs
    ¾ cup corn starch

    — panko bread crumbs
    — unsweetened, finely grated coconut (optional)

    5 cups frying oil or ghee (or at least 2" deep)

I didn't use coconut: it gets old real fast for me. Julene loves it, though. If you want to use it, mix it thoroughly with the panko crumbs before dredging.

Perform mise en place of all ingredients: The batter will separate fairly quickly so it's better that everything be ready at once: oil heated to 350°, shrimp deveined and butterflied, crumbs ready for dredging, batter to hand.

Tip: You can heat the oil while processing the shrimp. I think it's okay to do the first round of battering and dredging even if it's done before the oil is hot.

1. Butterfly shrimp by deveining, removing all shell but the tail. Using a small, but very sharp knife, slash not quite all the way through to open the shrimp up and lay it out flat. Beat it flat with a tool just as you would a breast of chicken, but take great care not to destroy it (it takes a far lighter hand than meat, but it's the same action).

2. In a blender, mix water, eggs and cornstarch until totally homogeneous. Pour into a bowl.

3. Dip shrimp in batter and let drip a couple of seconds to eliminate excess then dredge immediately, piling crumbs on top and pressing down to seat as many as possible. Set aside on a plate. Process all shrimp.

Ensure that oil is hot enough for cooking.

Ready to cook
4. Re-batter shrimp and re-dredge one at a time. As each one is ready, slide it immediately into the oil to cook, count to 20, then remove to drain on a paper towel. This should be enough for them to reach a nice, golden brown color.

Do not over-cook or they will be rubbery. Do not attempt to cook under temperature or you will have to over-cook them to reach golden brown. Ensure that the oil has returned to temperature before repeating step 4 for the next shrimp (or however many you're cooking at once if you're real clever).

It's nice having a tiny sieve to skim the fallen panko between shrimp. I didn't, so halfway through cooking I strained the oil with a large sieve into another pan, then returned the oil to my first pan (only 6 shrimp—so, yeah, it gets pretty messy).

Oh, yes, they were delicious except for the one I over-cooked because my oil had gone cold cooking the previous one. (You don't think I hatched this recipe without mishap and hard knocks, do you?)

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