Baton Rouge hasn’t had the easiest 2016. The Alton Sterling shooting, followed by the shooting of three law enforcement officers, followed by an epic flood. The somber mood has made us cleave to what really matters – friends and family. Weekends have many of us huddled up watching football (another letdown lately if you’re an LSU fan) stuffing our faces with gameday eats. That part isn’t so bad.
During halftime of last weekend’s delicious LSU-Auburn game (sorry, Auburn friends!), my friend Sara and I headed into the kitchen to work on appetizers while our combined six kids and two husbands headed outside. It was beastly hot, so much so that organizers a few miles away at Tiger Stadium had made special arrangements for extra water — and paramedics. Even here in the comfort of our air-conditioned house, something cool and refreshing was in order. We set out the ingredients to make Gulf shrimp spring rolls.
Shrimp are harvested from March to December in Louisiana, and one of the enduring ways to savor them (despite the calories) is fried.
What’s the right way to fry shrimp? Ask anyone with ties to the Gulf South, and brace yourself for strong opinions. Timing and temperature are an issue. You shouldn’t overcook the shrimp, yet the oil has to be hot enough so that the brief cook time ensures crisp texture. Then there’s breading and seasoning. What’s in the wet better? What’s in the dry batter? How much salt, pepper and other spices do you add to flavor the shrimp without overshadowing its delicate profile?
Before the summer slips completely away and we return to back-to-school order and discipline, I’d like to share my dad’s tried-and-true formula for decadent, deep-fried Gulf shrimp, something my family and I savored this past weekend.
We’re rooting hard in Baton Rouge for our own Jay Ducote to take top honors on The Next Food Network Star, and one of his recipes on the show inspired dinner at my house this week. Jay is a friend and fellow blogger/food writer (among other talents), and it’s been fun to watch him soar on a national level on both Cutthroat Kitchen and now possibly as Food Network’s next big thing. A few episodes into the annual series, he’s showing his natural ability to gab and connect, and he’s playing to his strengths as a chef who favors big Southern flavors. The Cajun tasso macque choux he prepared for a large crowd during the first episode earned kudos – and it prompted me to make my own version.
This is the summer that my children, ages 13, 11 and 8, WILL learn to cook.
Yes, I should have done this before now. But like most busy moms, I’ve been more focused on slapping dinner on the table than about explaining how it got there.
I realize that my kids are only getting older, and one day soon they’re going to need to scramble their own eggs. And that, as you know, is not as easy as it sounds. The one thing that cooking requires, more than natural talent or creativity, is practice. And unless I invite them in to make some messes and slow me down, they will never learn.
You will not regret making this salad. Before you even go to the “trouble,” understand that it is nothing more than 3 simple components: fresh cooked shrimp, chopped veggies and a really nice dressing. C’est tout, OK? Do not glaze over at the list of ingredients, because this is easy and really adaptable. Plus, it’s just damned delicious and I want you to experience it. With me?