There's a Bathroom on the Right

Who but Credence Clearwater Revival could get away with an eleven-minute version of “Heard it Through the Grapevine”? I ask you.

And where do they get their accents from? They’re from freaking San Francisco; John Fogerty was not born on the bayou, nor did he ever hear his old hound dog barkin’, chasin’ down a hoodoo. Still, Bad Moon Rising is clearly one of the best songs of all time and definitely the best Southern rock song ever to reference Hammurabi’s code.

I can think of no better soundtrack for throwing together some fried shrimp po’ boys on a Tuesday night. I guess there’s always Mississippi Queen, but the rest of that album sucks ass, so CCR it is. Thump that gut bass, Blinky.

remouladish

Before I get to the po’ boys, I have to issue a variety of disclaimers; I’m going to need you to print them out, initial them and return them to me, keeping a photocopy for your files.

Disclaimer #1: I have never been to New Orleans and eaten an authentic po’ boy.

  • The closest I can claim to have gotten to New Orleans is sharing an office with a co-worker who was originally from New Iberia, which may or may not be near New Orleans but is at least in Louisiana. Sometimes, her mom would FedEx her étouffée and she’d let me have some. She also once brought me a can of Steen’s Cane Syrup, which I use as a bookend because I have no idea what to do with it.
  • The closest I’ve ever been to New Orleans geographically is Florida. Probably Tampa, which may be nearer than New Jersey as the crow flies, but which I assume could not be further away in spirit.

sluggish

Disclaimer #2: I have none of the correct ingredients.

In the reading I did about po’ boys before attempting to make them, several things became abundantly clear:

  • The bread is the most important thing! If you do not have it, your sandwich will be inauthentic, inedible and an affront to the entire state of Louisiana.
  • The creole seasoning is the most important thing! If you do not have it, your sandwich will be inauthentic, inedible and an affront to the entire state of Louisiana.
  • The creole mustard is the most important thing! If you do not have it, your sandwich will be inauthentic, inedible and an affront to the entire state of Louisiana.
  • The fresh gulf shrimp are the most important thing! If you do not have them, your sandwich will be inauthentic, inedible and an affront to the entire state of Louisiana.

Therefore, I am opening myself up to ridicule and possibly tarring and feathering by using ciabatta rolls (WRONG!), homemade creole seasoning (possibly acceptable, but probably not), regular grainy mustard (HORRORS!) and shrimp of indeterminate origin* (ANTI-AMERICAN!).

* I mean, I know they came from the sea; they’re not outer space shrimp or anything.

fried

Pretty much the only things I did right were to coat the shrimp in a cornmeal mixture and fry them in peanut oil, although I’m sure someone will chime in to tell me that peanut oil is a modern-day perversion of the classic cajun preparation.

Anyway, I put together a vaguely remouladish sauce first, so its flavors could meld while I took the dogs for a two block walk that lasted 45 minutes because they pee on everything that’s more than three inches tall. I made my own aioli, then whisked in Creole seasoning, Tabasco, grainy non-Creole mustard, salt and cider vinegar.

Hard boiled egg yolks, chopped cornichons, capers and pickle juice were omitted, because I don’t like any of those things. Seriously, pickles are like unfortunate cucumbers that were touched by the hand of Satan, or maybe John Boehner, and withered and turned sour. Does not compute.

fixins'

The shrimp got a bath in egg beaten with buttermilk and a coating of flour, cornmeal and more Creole seasoning before hitting the cast-iron skillet of hot peanut oil. Quoth Brian, coming up the stairs as the first batch of shrimp came out of the pan, “It really smells like a seafood shack in here! In a good way!” While they cooked, I sliced up my fixins’ and got the remouladian sauce, which sounds like the sauce they serve on the bridge of the starship Enterprise, out of the fridge.

We’re having a couple of realtors come over this week to take a look at our apartment and show us analyses of comparable properties, although the real reason for inviting them over is to silently make snap judgements about them based on their mannerisms to decide who we’re going to list with. I’m thinking I should definitely deep-fry more spicy seafood; it really perfumes the space and will hopefully drive the price up and eventually engender a bidding war.

po' boy

I slathered both halves of the bread with quasi-remoulade and added lettuce, a pile of shrimp and some sliced tomato. Brian gave his a good dousing of additional Tabasco. He is also the one who decided we should line the baskets with newspaper, so the po’ boys would at least look authentic.

10apr12-6

As mentioned before, I have no basis of comparison for a po’ boy other than a crawfish version I once had at a cajun restaurant in Hoboken, which obviously does not count. But I knows what I likes, and I like this. The coating on the shrimp wasn’t too thin or too thick, with just the right heat level; the remoulade’s half-brother added more pungency, but the hit of vinegar cut through some of the richness. Super crusty bread and crisp, cool veg set off the hot seafood just right. Add some chips and an icy beer, and I’m pretty sure you can’t ask for anything more.

Except maybe some fresh beignets to go with your after-dinner coffee, but you’re going to have to make those yourself.

I apologize for all the sub-recipes. Whenever I see them in a cookbook, I’m all like, “Fuck that!” Sorry.

How’d I do, cajun queens?

Fried Shrimp Po’ Boys
serves 2-4

Creole Seasoning
2 parts garlic powder
2 parts onion powder
2 parts freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 parts smoked paprika
1 1/2 parts hot paprika
1 part ground white pepper
1 part cayenne
1 part kosher salt
1/2 part thyme

Whisk everything together. Done and done.

Depending on how much you want to make, the “part” can be anything. We used one teaspoon to equal one part; feel free to use more. If you’d like, you can add two parts sugar to the mix to make a blackening spice for chicken or fish.

Remouladish Sauce
1/2 c. mayo/aioli
2 cloves garlic (if needed)
2 tbsp. grainy mustard
1 1/2 tsp. Creole seasoning
4-5 dashes Tabasco
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
pinch salt

Ideally, you will make your own mayo and include the garlic when you’re blending it up. If so, just dump everything in a bowl, whisk to combine, and leave in the fridge for at least one hour before using.

If using pre-prepared mayo, grate the garlic with a microplane and add it, along with everything else, to a bowl. Same whisk/fridge dealio.

Fried Shrimp
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined
1/2 c. AP flour
1/2 c.  cornmeal
2 tbsp. Creole seasoning
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 large eggs
2 tbsp. buttermilk
peanut oil for frying

Fill a pan, preferably cast-iron, with peanut oil to about 3/4 of an inch deep and set it over medium-high heat; bring it to 350-360 degrees.

While the oil heats: in a shallow bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, Creole seasoning and salt. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs and buttermilk.

Dunk a shrimp into the egg, let the excess drip off, and then toss it in the flour and cornmeal. Repeat until all the shrimp are coated.

Fry shrimp in batches, being careful not to crowd the pan and monitoring the oil temp to keep it stable. Two minutes per side should be more than enough. Remove shrimp to a plate lined with paper towels.

Po’ Boy Sandwich Assembly
Fried Shrimp
Remouladian Sauce
Baguette/French Bread/Best Crusty Bread You Can Find
Lettuce, shredded
Tomato, sliced
Tabasco, optional

Slice your bread open and slather both halves liberally with the remouladesque sauce. Add shredded lettuce, shrimp and tomato. Serve Tabasco on the side.

18 thoughts on “There's a Bathroom on the Right

  1. I’d like to point out that CCR is from El Cerrito, which is like at least 15 or 20 miles closer to the Sacramento River Delta, which is almost but not entirely unlike Louisiana.

    Also this post makes me lament my lack of splatter screen.

  2. I know it’s true of regional cuisine and cooks all across the US (and the world), but I have never been begged so strenuously by anyone to cook with *authentic* ingredients as when recently I made a Mississippian friend’s recipe for Biloxi spiced shrimp. He very reluctantly let me make do with Zatarain’s for the first batch, but a box of *authentic* Creole seasoning is on its way to my house as we speak because he just couldn’t bear the thought of us poor Californians having subpar seasoning. So some po’ boys may be in our near future!

  3. I love cane syrup – it’s like a hybrid of honey and molasses – sure it would be nice for gingersnaps or gingerbread and I get sad when I don’t have any on hand when I’m making granola – I am actually hoarding a bottle of Steen’s right now!

  4. Cane syrup was created for making REAL pecan pies.
    Not pecan pies with bourbon and chocolate, fine ingredients elsewhere.

  5. I’ve never had such a complicated po-boy, but it sounds delicious. Screw authenticity, I say, unless it comes to tomatoes in a roux-based gumbo. That’s just an abomination. Oh, and my favorite way to eat cane syrup is with well-buttered biscuits. It’s delicious and perfect for a weekend when you can nap for a few hours immediately after breakfast.

  6. My dad eats cane syrup with pancakes, hot biscuits, cracklin bread, or just buttered cornbread because he’s old and Southern like that. (Inject “When I was your age” story here about being poor living in Georgia during the 1940s & 1950s and they couldn’t buy fancy syrup just cane syrup to feed 11 kids and 2 adults in one of those Mason jugs. True story…I had to listen to it.) I didn’t like it as a kid, I thought it was too bitter and thick for pancakes. I do like it occasionally now as an adult.

    We have a local Po’ Boy place here that makes authentic ones in all kinds of combos, alligator, shrimp, hot link, club sandwich, etc. Very tasty!

  7. Put this on your menu, I’ll head south to try it!
    actually, when you open your shack I’ll have to take a week’s vacation next door so I can eat 3 meals a day there….

  8. @mia, to me, the seasoning seems like the easiest part to recreate successfully, although i may be being naive.

    @julia f, i’m digging on the granola idea. i’ll have to rearrange my books.

    @annemarie, to each her own. they make me INSANE, mostly because they always sneak up on me.

    @amy, in my defense, you could just buy some tony chachere’s and use regular mayo and mustard and call it a day, and things would be much simpler, but “go buy a can of tony chachere’s” would have made a crappy blog post.

    @misa, i don’t know what “cracklin bread” is, but it sounds like something i need.

  9. Close enough… The bread is a problem. A baguette would have been a better choice — less “bready” than ciabatta — but we have knock down drag-outs down here over the proper bread for a poboy, so you’re forgiven.

    I prefer to bread my shrimp with corn flour rather than cornmeal, but other than that, we agree on shrimp frying.

    I think your remoulade-ish dressing sounds tasty, but perhaps a little much for a poboy purist. At home, only my-nehz would be on the sandwich, allowing the full flavor of the shrimp to predominate. Another choice would be melted butter. And the poboy should be fully dressed, i.e., lettuce, tomato and pickle slices (although the pickle can be served on the side).

    All-in-all, you did a pretty good job! Next time, do oyster poboys. Your corn meal breading and remoulade-ish sauce would be just the thing for fried oysters. YUM!

    And try to get down here, please. You’re missing out on great food that YOU would really appreciate. There’s a train directly to NOLA from the East Coast if you don’t like to fly…

  10. I have never been to NOLA but my best friend, who goes every year, is begging me to go with her one year. I think it’d be fun, but I also think we’d get ourselves in serious trouble in the French Quarter after too many beers.

    On the other hand, these po’boys look damn good. I’m gonna have to make these.

    Oh, and mmmmmm oysters. Those would be good too!

  11. What you have to realize is that there are as many “authentic New Awlins po’boys” as there are places that make them. There’s a world o’difference in Mother’s po’boy and an Acme po’boy, f’rinstance.

    The seasoning is perfectly fine. The frying of the shrimp is perfectly fine. NOLA purists would say you must use Leidenheimer bread, the one unifying note in NOLA po’boys, but ciabatta is a perfectly acceptable substitute.

    Your remouladish sauce sounds reasonbly like what I’ve had in NOLA. I personally prefer comeback sauce, which is a mix of cocktail sauce, which is a mix of ketchup, a shit-ton of horseradish, some worcestershire sauce, some salt, some hot sauce, and a shit-ton of lemon juice), with garlic aioli in about a 2.5:1 ratio of aioli to cocktail sauce, on my po’boys. And I prefer (it’s heresy in a lot of places, but Mother’s does it)to take my comeback sauce and liberally dress some shredded cabbage with it, and stack THAT with my shrimps and pickle and tomato. Your mileage may vary.

    Clarification. Mother’s uses shredded cabbage. They do not use comeback sauce, but rather, just mayo. Me, I likes me some comeback sauce.

    Next time you do this, get you some andouille or some boudin sausage links, split ‘em open, and fry ‘em in a hot skillet. Make your po’boy with that, and if you SERIOUSLY want to take it over the top, add fried oysters or shrimps. I’m just sayin.

  12. I guess po’boys are like “philly cheesesteaks.” You can get them in lots of places, but that doesn’t make them authentic ;)

  13. When you figure out how to split boudin and fry it in a skillet without ending up with a big ole mess of fried rice, please let me know.

  14. My kids (genetically somewhat nerdy) have always referred to remoulade sauce as Romulan sauce. I go with the nomenclature, since my sauce is as non-standard as yours is, and I have left capers out of every recipe in which I have ever encountered them..

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