Cravings are a weird thing. Like little goblins, these self-destructive compulsions clamber up from the bowels of human nature, despite our best efforts to suppress them. I usually pride myself in avoiding packaged and processed foods, but there are times when I can't help but succumb to a craving for something fast and fried. The other day, I was strolling the aisles of my local grocery store minding my own business, when a craving for Coconut Shrimp lept forth into my consciousness.
At times like these, most people would hop into their SUV and drive to the nearest Outback Steakhouse to pick up a platter of Gold Coast Coconut Shrimp. Unfortunately I have neither an SUV or an Outback nearby, and so I was left to my own devices to come up with something to appease my inner demon. Shredded dried coconut and jumbo shrimp in hand, I headed home to see what I could concoct.
For those of you that have never had it, Coconut Shrimp is essentially shrimp that has been "breaded" in shredded dried coconut before being deep fried. The golden brown tendrils of fried coconut not only provide a crisp crunch, they also contribute a wonderful nutty flavor that compliments the shrimp.
Most restaurants will butterfly the shrimp because it allows them to use cheaper smaller shrimp, while making them appear bigger. While this does give more surface area for the coconut to cling to, the thin shrimp tends to dry out and ends up chewy. That's why in my version I decided to leave the shrimp intact, with the exception of making some incisions along the belly of the shrimp to keep them from curling.
The results turned out great! Biting into the crispy crust of coconut practically squirts shrimp juice into your mouth, while the spicy sweet sauce rounds out the briny shrimp. Best of all, this took under thirty minutes to make, which makes them perfect canapés for a party or a fun appetizer when you have friends over.
- To make the sauce, add the marmalade and Thai sweet chili sauce to a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until bubbly (about 30 seconds), then stir in the lemon juice.
- Leaving the tail-on, shell and devein the shrimp. If you want to prevent the shrimp from curling when you fry them, make a series of perpendicular incisions about 1/4" apart along the inside of the curl. Pat the shrimp dry with paper towels, then generously salt and pepper both sides.
- Prepare three shallow bowls, 1 with flour, 1 with the egg, and 1 with the coconut. Dust each shrimp with the flour, then dip them dip them in the egg. This combination acts as the glue for the coconut, so make sure you don't miss any spots. Finally, lay the shrimp on the coconut and sprinkle some of the coconut on top, pressing on the shrimp to make sure it gets a nice thick coating. Lift the shrimp up by it's tail and give it a wiggle to shake off any excess coconut. Repeat with the rest of the shrimp
- In a heavy bottomed pot, add 1" of oil and heat over medium high heat until it reaches 350 degrees F. Fry the shrimp in batches, until golden brown, flipping once half-way through. Skim off any foam that surfaces. Drain the coconut shrimp on the paper towel lined rack and serve with the spicy orange sauce.