Don’t you wish you didn’t have to worry about the social acceptability of table manners? You know you want to be the one to scoop up that last bit of hummus with your finger after the pita supply has waned. And furthermore, don’t tell me you’ve never been tempted to lick that fancy plate you’ve been daintily forking and knifing. My 4 year old nephew, Romen, isn’t bound by such arbitrary niceties. After eating hot dog slices swimming in the bowl of ketchup and mustard he politely requested, Romen did what every grown-up wishes he or she could do. He tilted his head back and began to drink the leftover ketchup and mustard, tapping the bottom of the plastic bowl for good measure. Now, for the sake of my argument (just in case ketchup and mustard soup doesn’t appeal to you), just pretend you were sitting in front of a the bowl filled with your favorite sauce. Chocolate fondue, anyone?
At such a young age, Romen already knows that the sauce is the best part of the meal. I can’t wait to show him the wonders of Sriracha, cilantro chutney, and all sorts of other things to drizzle, douse, and dip. I know this is a Po boy recipe, so excuse me for being hyper-focused on the sauce, but I can’t help it. I. Love. Remoulade. What’s not to like about a socially acceptable way to enjoy all sorts of condiments, herbs, pickles, and whatever else you fancy, mixed together into a single sauce. I like to think of it as a decked out, up-scale tartar sauce or aioli. Purists might insist that there’s one way to do a traditional remoulade, but I think that the beauty of it is that it can be endlessly improvised upon according to your tastes, and what you have on hand.
Good Po boys can’t rely on remoulade alone, which is why these ones are filled with hot, crunchy cornmeal-crusted shrimp, seasoned with cajun spices and smoked paprika. I like to stuff the shrimp into toasted baguettes filled with crisp vinegar slaw, and of course, a generous slathering of remoulade. Leave your grown-up table manners at the door. This could get messy.
Cajun Shrimp Poboys with Spicy Remoulade and Vinegar Slaw
Makes 4-6 sandwiches, with extra slaw
For the shrimp:
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1/4 cup corn starch
- 1/4 cup flour
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon smoked hot paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 egg white whisked with 1 tablespoon water
- 1 pound medium shrimp (26-30 count), deveined and peeled, tails removed
- canola or peanut oil for frying
For the remoulade:
- 3/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1 1/2 tablespoons ketchup
- 2 teaspoons dijon mustard
- a few dashes hot sauce to taste
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped pickles
- 1/2 small red onion
- 1 small clove garlic, finely grated or pressed
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the slaw:
- 1 small head red or green cabbage (or a mix of both), thinly sliced
- 1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
- 1/3 cup cider vinegar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
For the sandwiches:
- Four to six 6 inch baguette portions, from 2 baguettes
1) Make the slaw: Whisk together the vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, dijon mustard and olive oil in a small bowl. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the vinegar mixture. Season to taste with additional salt, sugar, and/or vinegar if needed.
2) Make the remoulade: Stir together all remoulade ingredients in a small bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
3) Bread and fry the shrimp: Heat one inch canola oil in a large cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or heavy-bottomed pan to 360˚ F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients (cornmeal through black pepper). Working in small batches, lightly coat the shrimp with the egg white mixture, and then press each side of the shrimp into the cornmeal mixture. Fry the shrimp in the hot oil until curled and golden brown, about 1-1/2 to 2 minutes per side. Place the shrimp on a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
4) Cut the baguette pieces in half lengthwise. Toast the baguette under a broiler. Spread on the remoulade on the cut sides of the bread, and arrange the shrimp on one side of the bread. Spread the slaw on top of the shrimp and top with the other piece of baguette.