GULF COAST FRIED SHRIMP (for four)
2 pounds headless large shrimp (26 to 30 per pound, shells on)
2 to 3 cups peanut or canola oil
Fry dredge (recipe follows)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
- Peel the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Devein if you wish (in this recipe, deveining has the benefit of revealing more surface for the dredge to cling to). Discard the shells or reserve.
- Preheat the oven to 225*. Pour the oil into a large cast-iron skillet to a depth of about ½ inch (2 cups of oil for a 10 inch skillet, 3 cups for a 12 inch skillet — DO NOT increase the amount of oil. Hot oil will bubble up, sometimes dramatically, when the shrimp are dropped in. If it overflows the skillet and makes contact with the flame below, your kitchen will be on fire). Heat over medium-high heat until the temperature on a candy thermometer reads 365*.
- Scatter the dredge on a large dinner plate. Using your hands or two wooden spoons, gently toss shrimp in the dredge in batches, about a dozen at a time, until they’re evenly coated. When the oil reaches 365*, transfer the shrimp to the skillet in batches, about eight at a time, using a slotted spoon (Resist the temptation to make larger batches. More shrimp will reduce the heat of the oil and the shrimp will stick together and not cook properly. More shrimp also increases the chance of an oil overflow.) Fry, turning the shrimp as they brown, until they’re evenly golden brown, about 1 minute per batch. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain the temperature between 350 and 365*.
- Transfer the fried shrimp to a plate lined with a double thickness of paper towels and place the plate in the oven to warm. Repeat until all the shrimp have been fried.
- To serve, place about a dozen shrimp on each of 6 plates. Serve with coleslaw or fried okra and garnish with lemon wedges and cocktail sauce.
ALL PURPOSE FRY DREDGE (¾ cup)
½ cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons stone-ground corn meal
2 teaspoons salt
1-½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
a sprinkling of bread crumbs for quick browning, if dredging fish or oysters
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cornmeal, salt and pepper together twice. Stir and turn out onto a flat surface. Press fish or green tomatoes or oysters or chicken or clams into the mixture on all sides and shake the excess loose.
NOTE: Milled grains should be treated as perishable products, so if you’re not using this dredge immediately, transfer it to a quart-sized plastic bag with a zipper lock and store in the freezer for not longer than 4 weeks. Remove the dredge 1 hour before using so it can come to room temperature.
from Matt and Ted Lee, The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook