Fresh shrimp are very easy to come by here on the Eastern Shore. Shrimp are wonderful, you can virtually do anything you want to with them. I will spare you all any Bubba Blue quotes, but the man did have a good point. I’d go as far as to say they are the most versatile thing in the whole ocean. But, I have to say, my favorite preperation of a shrimp is the good old batter and fry. While I absolutely adore a zesty shrimp scampi, or an piping hot batch of Old Bay-laiden steamed shrimp, there is something to be said about the simplicity of a fried shrimp.
Because shrimp cook so quickly – things easily go awry. The difference between perfectly cooked and shrimp jerky is a matter of seconds. And, nothing is worse than an overcooked shrimp. Well, okay, I’m sure there is something worse…but, it’s pretty damn bad people!
Feel free to use frozen shrimp (I pity the fool!). Just make sure they have been thawed completely before battering and frying.
1 1/2 lbs large shrimp (20/25 count), peeled and deveined
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cornmeal (yellow or white)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp Old Bay (or another seafood seasoning)
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup milk
2 tbsp hot sauce
Vegetable oil for frying
Place 2 inches of oil into a large saucepan or dutch oven and heat to 375 degrees. While waiting for the oil to warm up, prepare the shrimp.
Combine the flour, cornmeal, Old Bay, salt and pepper in a small bowl. In a shallow dish combine the egg, milk, and hot sauce.
Drege the shrimp in the flour mixture first. Shake to remove excess flour from the shrimp. Then, place shrimp into the egg mixture. Turn to coat, remove and let excess drip off, then place back into flour mixture. Dredge in the flour thoroughly to make sure all sides are coated. Repeat process with remaining shrimp, working in batches of 4 or 5 at a time.
Place shrimp in the hot oil, and cook, turning over in oil several times, for about 2 minutes or until the shrimp are golden brown. Be careful not to overcook! Once you see the shrimp start to “curl up”, you know they are almost done. Give then another 30 seconds to 1 minute at that point, to let them finish their browning – then pull them out immediately and let drain on a paper towel lined plate.
You can keep shrimp warm in the oven on a wire rack set over a baking sheet. But honestly, they are great at room temperature too. Serve with lemon wedges and a good, spicy cocktail sauce.