Sunday, February 17, 2013

Fried Shrimp

Fried might conjure up the image of some butterflied shrimp tails covered in breading and then deep fried in some frightening trans-fat laden vegetable oil and served with a lackluster side of mediocre tartar sauce and a lemon wedge.  Well, if that's the image that came into your mind before you saw the photo above, I'm here to set the record straight, because this is how you do fried shrimp. 

It's fast, it's easy, and if you have never had shrimp this way it will probably change your opinion on this humble crustacean.  The ingredients are few, but quality is especially important here.

Start with some large whole shrimp.  Whole shrimp!  Don't just buy the tails and call it a day.  The body is where all of the flavor is, so get about a pound (depending on how many you are serving) of very fresh whole shrimp from your local merchant of choice.

You'll also need some quality rendered leaf lard.  I render my own from a local farm that sells the hard kidney fat from their whey and acorn fed pigs.  The rendering process takes a little while, but it is very easy and you can produce a lot of lard and store it in the freezer for a long time.  Lard is excellent for frying because it is heat stable, does not impart any flavor, and makes food incredibly crispy.  In fact, I eat the entire shrimp when cooking them in lard (head, body, tail, shell, legs, eyeballs..everything).

Wash the shrimp under cool water and pat dry.  Toss them with seasoning of you choice (I used a paprika and celery based mixed seasoning from my favorite local spice shop for these, but salt and pepper are great as well).  Heat about 1/4" deep layer of lard in a stainless steel or cast iron skillet and add the shrimp carefully into the oil.  Take care not to crowd them; it is better to cook them in several small batches than to overload the pan.
Cooking time really depends on the size of the shrimp, but fortunately they have a built in cooking indicator.  When you see that the shrimp have turned pink just a little bit more than halfway up their sides, flip them over and cook for a few more minutes until the entire shrimp is pink and crispy.  The meat should be cooked through but not tough, and the shells will be so crisp that you can eat these whole (and I suggest that you do at least try it for full effect).
Simply remove from the oil and serve hot.  This is serious 'finger food', so keep your sides simple.  Some broccoli or even brussels sprouts would make a good pairing.
Everything on this plate is edible; from the crispy shells to the tasty guts


  1. Replies
    1. Yes indeed! The lard really makes them crisp and delicious.

  2. Tried this at a Asian buffet. First time removed shell, second time ate w/ shell yum. Came to this site because needed recipe. I recommend this treat.