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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Baguette/French Bread/Best Crusty Bread You Can Find
Slice your bread open and slather both halves liberally with the remouladesque sauce. Add shredded lettuce, shrimp and tomato. Serve Tabasco on the side.