Sometimes you just get an idea. There's no trace of where it came from, but it grabs you and won't let go until you try it out. This is not a simple sandwich, with several steps that need coordination, so that just makes the process that much more mysterious.
It was a dark but not stormy night, after a long day. This however was not enough to stop me once possessed by the concept of tweaking a po'boy so that all the ingredients were either seasonal for winter or previously frozen. So, no tomatoes. I was out of lettuce, and did not have or want some of the other traditional ingredients. But then a real poor boy would not run out to buy ingredients that he couldn't grow or didn't already have, would he? Gas is expensive.
So, the sauce became a spicy Hollandaise variant using home made vinegar, three kinds of chilis and salt. The greens became garden fresh arugula. The shrimp was the real deal, frozen Louisiana Gulf shrimp. The relish was caramelized onions and garlic. The bread, rosemary levain - a bit chewy perhaps but with a flavor that would go great with the other ingredients.
After all was said and done, it was quite a tasty sandwich. The dishwashing was less tasty, since all this stuff could not easily be combined into one or two pans.
Winter Shrimp Po'Boy
Serves two hungry people as a meal or four as an appetizer (just cut bread into 3" long pieces)
- 2 pieces of Rosemary levain baguette, about 6" long, sliced lengthwise to about 1/2" of the other side, leaving a "hinge"
- 4-5 Gulf shrimp, 16/20 size, cleaned and de-veined, cut into two pieces
- About 2-3 Tbsp each Corn meal / cake flour mixture for dusting
- 2 eggs, about 1/2 cup milk mixture for dredging
- Aleppo chili powder to taste
- 3 large leaves of arugula
- 6 Tbsp onions, small dice or brunoise
- 1-2 cloves garlic, small dice or brunoise
- New Mexico chili powder to taste
- Pimenton agridulce to taste
- Oil for frying shrimp
- 2 egg yolks for sauce
- 4-5 Tbsp. butter, cut into 1/2" - 3/4" cubes
- 4 Tbsp. or so Red wine vinegar
- Oil for sauteing onions
- Defrost shrimp in refrigerator or cold water
- Slice butter into cubes, leave out to soften
- Pre heat oven to 250° F
- Slice the bread
- Clean and devein shrimp, cut into two pieces, drop into milk-egg mixture.
- Tear arugula leaves into about 2" pieces
- Chop onions and garlic
- Mix corn meal, flour, three chilis
- Mix vinegar with some salt, half the onion/garlic mixture, 3 chili powder to taste, reduce by about 1/2. If you over reduce, add water.
- Mix milk and egg mixture
- Heat oil for frying shrimp
- Sauté remaining onion-garlic mixture in some oil until it has a nice golden brown color, set aside.
- Heat water under double boiler
- Dredge shrimp in flour/cornmeal mixture, fry until golden, place on dish in oven to reserve.
- Strain chilis and onions out of vinegar, add to double boiler. Have butter cubes and a bit of cold water ready at hand so you can add them quickly as needed.
- Whisk in egg yolks, and keep whisking as you add butter a little at a time. Watch this sauce very carefully - when it starts to thicken it will go fast. Keep adding butter to maintain a nice consistency. I usually don't end up adding all the butter. When the sauce is getting thick (or is just a tad thicker than you want, take it off the heat (off the double boiler, since the water is still hot), and add a bit of cold water to stop it from over cooking. Keep whisking a bit to keep things smooth. Add salt to taste if you wish.
- Now, you're ready. Don't let the sauce sit since it will go downhill rather quickly. If you have to let it sit, add a bit of heavy cream instead of cold water at the end of cooking to stabilize it. Prepare two plates with a piece of bread each. Pour a bit of the sauce into the bread to moisten it a bit, add some of the onion/garlic relish, add some shrimp, tuck the arugula into the space between the bread and the spinach, and pour on the rest of the sauce. Enjoy! These things are supposed to be messy and drippy, so lean over your plate as you eat.
If you're reading this in summer, add vine ripe fresh tomatoes, maybe sauteed eggplant or peppers.