Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sundays with Sparky - Breading and Deep Frying

Sparky's next request was for "popcorn shrimp, like the Place With The Alligator.  Now, he's had popcorn shrimp at other places, but clearly was looking for something specific, so I queried further: apparently he liked the large butterflied shrimp (Ron's uses medium to large shrimp, rather than the tiny ones usually used for kids) and the breading, which was "soft and bumpy."

Hmmm - this took a bit of reverse-engineering on my part, but a google image search of "popcorn shrimp" that looked right produced an  Emeril recipe (of all things) that I used as a starting place. (FWIW, Sparky liked the result, said they were "soft enough" but not really "bumpy enough" or "big and open enough" to be like Ron's - next time, I plan to add panko to the mix and will teach him to butterfly larger shrimp)

You may ask why, health minded as I am, I am teaching my child to deep fry.  While I don't advocate deep-frying for every day, or even every week, it can be done more healthfully that it often is at SuperSize Me outlets.  While we were generally following good frying technique, (well, except for the heat part, but that was my own oversight) this article is an excellent resource for how to do it right.

So, we set up our mise-en-place:

Yogurt (1/2 cup per lb)
Milk (1/2 cup per lb)
Garlic Powder (pinch)
Masa Harina (6 tbsp per lb)
Cornstarch (1/3 cup per lb)
Pepper (to taste)
Salt (to taste)
Trader Joe's Seafood Blend 1 lb bag (Calamari, Shrimp and Bay Scallops, excellent for this purpose, BTW)
Assorted raw veg (we had broccoli, green beans and green peppers)
Oil (about 2 inches deep in your casserole)

Cast-iron casserole (the high sides make this a lot less messy than a skillet)
Ziploc bag
Assorted large bowls or ziploc bags
Large plate
Cookie sheet covered in paper towels and a cooling rack
Spider (see below) or tongs

First, we make a buttermilk substitute for our drench (I rarely keep buttermilk, but always have plain yogurt on hand) equal parts of milk and yogurt to make 1 cup; we did one drench for the fish and one for the veg. To this we added several good grinds of pepper, a pinch of garlic powder, and a 1/2 tsp of salt per cup of drench.

We soaked our fish and veggies in the drench while we prepared our dredge: 1/3 cup of cornstarch and 6 tablespoons of Masa Harina, placed in a large ziploc bag. (This was enough to do the fish only, so we repeated twice for the large volume of veggies.)

And, working in small batches (IIRC, 4 batches for the pound of seafood) in the tradition of "I shooked and Mom cooked..."

We then removed each batch carefully with our fingers, trying to leave as much dredge in the bag as possible. The prepared food went on a plate next to the preheated cast-iron casserole, with the cookie sheet immediately on the other side.

And, deep frying being more danger than I'm willing to allow my child near, with Sparky watching, standing on a chair a couple yards out of range, into 375 degree oil it went in equally small batches (in all honesty, time constraints made me fry some of this up below temp - it came out fine, but the penalty for doing so was that the results were a bit greasy and not as browned as I'd have liked. The final batch was fried at the right temp, and it makes a big difference, although it was all good) I cooked it for two or three minutes, until it was browned, then fished the food out with a spider and set it on the rack to drain a bit over paper towels.

Sprinkle with salt, and serve immediately (these pics were taken immediately upon leaving the oil.) We made quick dipping sauces by using one part creamy salad dressing (Ranch and Caesar) to two parts plain yogurt (Lowfat Greek or strained yogurt is best for this; nice added protein and little added fat.)


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