Along with the Banh Mi and the Monte Cristo, the Po’boy is among my favorite sandwiches of all time. Although they can be filled with anything from sausages to roast beef, I’m a fan of the ones with fried seafood such as oysters, catfish or shrimp. “Dressed” with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, pickles and a generous slathering of remoulade, Po’ Boys are like a festival of crispy, crunchy, creamy, savory and tangy textures and tastes that keep your mouth coming back for another bite.
Although the origins of this American regional classic are hotly disputed, the name Po’ Boy is likely a reference to the “poor boys” that used to consume this humble sub. I know many of you are probably having a hard time reconciling the high price of shrimp and oysters with the name, but it wasn’t long ago that crustaceans and mollusks were considered the dregs of the sea, suitable only for the working class. Lobster for example, was often ground up and used as fertilizer, or fed to prisoners, in which case it could only be dispensed once per week because it was considered cruel and unusual punishment
For my Po’ Boy, I like to use smoked paprika both in the seasoning for the shrimp and in the remoulade. This gives the sandwich a marvelous earthy flavor which is the perfect counterpoint to the briny shrimp. To ensure that each morsel of shrimp is well seasoned, I like to sprinkle the seasoning directly onto them before tossing them in a mixture of cornmeal and flour. This forms a thin crisp shell around each shrimp, with the unmistakable crunch of the granules of cornmeal. Although I prefer my coating thin, if you want your shrimp to have an extra thick coating, first dust the shrimp in flour, then dip them in a beaten egg before dredging them in cornmeal.
Crunchy savory shrimp with a creamy, tart and smoky remoulade, crisp iceberg lettuce, sweet tomatoes and tart crunchy dill pickles all nestled between two halves of plush french bread with a crisp crust, the finished sandwich is a masterpiece of color, texture, flavor and aromas.
To stay true to the po boy’s humble origins there are a few ingredient preferences I have. The first is that I use small shrimp for this recipe. Not only are small shrimp less expensive, they also have more surface area than large shrimp giving you a better coating to shrimp ratio. The second thing is the bread. Ideally you’d get a loaf from Leidenheimer Baking Company, but since they’re not available everywhere, look for cheap french bread. Cheaper bread tends to have a thinner crisp crust and soft interior, making it perfect for this sandwich.
for fried shrimp
- Make the remoulade by putting the mayonnaise, mustard, capers, parsley, scallion, garlic, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, and hot sauce in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the rest of the sandwich.
- For the shrimp, add 2-inches of oil to a heavy bottomed pot and preheat to 350 degrees F (180C). Prepare a wire rack lined with a triple layer of paper towels. Have all the vegetables for the sandwich ready in advance as you want to serve this as soon as the shrimp is done.
- If the crust on your bread is no longer crisp, throw it in a 350 degree F oven for a few minutes to crisp.
- Mix 2 teaspoons smoked paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and black pepper together in a small bowl.
- Dry any excess water off the shrimp using paper towels and them put them in a bowl. Toss the shrimp while sprinkling the seasoning mix over the shrimp to coat each one evenly.
- Put the cornmeal and flour in a bag and add the shrimp in batches, closing the bag and tossing to coat each shrimp evenly.
- Dig out the shrimp from the bag and add them to the pre-heated oil. Fry until the shrimp are golden brown and crisp and use a wire strainer to transfer to the prepared wire rack. Repeat with the rest of the shrimp.
- To assemble the sandwiches, slice the bread in half leaving a little crust at the back to act as a hinge. Spread a layer of remoulade onto the bottom bread and then top with the shrimp, pickles, lettuce and tomatoes. Finish with another drizzle of remoulade and extra hot sauce to taste. Serve immediately.