Salt and Pepper Shrimp

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Let’s talk about shrimp, baby, let’s talk about you and me…

Ok, that was a Salt-N-Pepa joke. If you don’t get that joke, click here (I couldn’t embed it!)

Now then, salt and pepper shrimp. What are they? I’d never had them until I went to Brooklyn Fish Camp last week with Robbie Baitz. They are shrimp, fried with their shells on, and then dusted in salt and pepper. Hot from the fryer, you crunch through that skin and it’s like a perfectly cooked shrimp wrapped in a potato chip. To quote the Barefoot Contessa, “How bad could that be, fool?”

Normally when I enjoy a restaurant dish, I assume that it’s just something I could never master at home and sadly resign myself to only enjoying said dish at said restaurant. But, with salt-n-pepa shrimp, I knew that I had a recipe: Amanda Hesser writes about them in “Cooking For Mr. Latte” and includes a recipe from Pearl Oyster Bar (which used to date Brooklyn Fish Camp, but that’s another story.)

And there it is on page 61. Amanda says, “My friend Paula introduced me to these shrimp. They were served in a tangle, crisp and hot. I began peeling away the shells, burning the tips of my fingers, when Paula nudged my arm and whispered, ‘You’re supposed to eat the shells and all.’ Indeed.”

Indeed! So how do you make them at home? You need four ingredients:

* Vegetable oil or peanut oil

* Flour

* 12 Shrimp (medium-sized)

* Cracker Meal

That last ingredient may be the hardest to find, though I found mine in the grocery store right near the breadcrumbs.

Here’s what you do:

Pour an inch or two of oil into a deep saucepan, that way there’s no chance it’ll splatter. You’ll need a thermometer here, the kind that clings to the side of the pot. Heat the oil until it gets to 350.

Meanwhile, combine 1/4 cup of flour with 3 Tbs cracker meal. Dredge the shrimp in the mixture, shake off excess, and–once the oil’s at 350–drop in the oil.

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It’ll sputter and spatter but then it’ll get quiet and you want to fry until it’s golden brown, about 2 minutes. Drain on paper towels and “shower with salt and pepper on both sides of the shrimp.”

That’s it! If, when the shrimp are all used up, you still want to fry something, take a lemon, cut it thinly, coat in the same batter and drop in the fryer. It’s a nice lemony foil for all the fried shrimp you’re about to eat.

Now if only I could get that Salt-N-Pepa song out of my head. Let’s talk about shrimp, baby, let’s talk about shrimp…….

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