Okay, so here I am waxing poetic (Shakespeare forgive me!) about cracker meal. Please don’t stop reading yet. This post is really more about fresh, locally caught shrimp (or prawns outside the US) than cracker meal, although cracker meal does have a part to play in this seafood tale.
Okay, so first off, there is my mother’s fried shrimp… and there is ALL the other fried shrimp in the world. To be perfectly clear, my mother’s fried shrimp recipe is the unequivocal best ever.
What I took for a run-of–the-mill shrimp preparation in my childhood, i.e. my mother’s, is something of an anomaly in the outside world, apparently. I realized this quickly once I was on my own, dining out often and started really paying attention to exactly what I was eating. And now it was close to being rendered… extinct!
Forget the shrimp tempura, dismiss the coconut shrimp, and by all means pass over the gunky batter-dipped farmed–raised blob that may (or may not) be actual Penaeus setiferus making daily appearances at your local fast-food restaurant (And I use the word ‘restaurant’ loosely here, folks). After all, friends don’t let friends buy foreign, farm-raised shrimp!
But I digress; I will assume you, my knowledgeable readers, only purchase wild shrimp preferably caught by local or nearly local fishermen. Now back to the cracker meal…
This meal, specifically Nabisco cracker meal is the bomb according to my mother and many others too (search “Nabisco cracker meal” online and see what shows up). There is no other substitute according to the de facto expert, my mama. The good folks at Kraft (who bought Nabisco) did not think much of their cracker meal, though, and it was discontinued for consumer sale about 2 years ago.
However, it is still available for those who are willing to make a commitment – a 25-pound commitment. This would include restaurants with superior taste, as well as my own mother. She pledged her commitment and now many little cracker meal-filled baggies line her freezer. She also shares with family and friends – thanks Mama!
Without further ado, I give you this well-lauded recipe with step-by-step instructions for Sarah Ann’s Fried Shrimp. If you are unable to commit to 25 lbs. of Nabisco cracker meal (I don’t blame you honestly) here are a few alternatives I found (although I have not tried them myself). If you do, send me some feedback/reviews, please.
And thanks to my mother who spent her Saturday evening at the beach making these with my 4 year-old daughter and me last weekend. Good times!
Cracker Meal from nuts.com – Currently $1.99 for a 1 lb. bag, $9.65 for a 5 lb. bag.
OTC Cracker Meal from amazon.com – Currently $24.99 for (12) 10-oz packages
Sarah Ann’s Fried Shrimp
- 1 1/2 lb. fresh medium sized shrimp, washed and shelled with tails left on
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- 1/4 cup milk
- 1 cup, more or less, Nabisco cracker meal
- Oil for frying (good quality, clean vegetable or canola oil)
Line a large cookie sheet with waxed paper or parchment and set aside. Have at a least 2 other large pieces of waxed paper or parchment on hand. Wash the shelled shrimp and dry on paper towels. Whisk the egg with the milk. Sprinkle the shrimp with some salt and pepper (about 1/2 teaspoon of each) and mix. Pour about 1/3 of the cracker meal onto one of the pieces of waxed paper and dredge each shrimp individually in the cracker meal. Place the dredged shrimp on the other piece of waxed paper.
When all the shrimp have been dredged, add some more cracker meal to your original pile. Dip each dredged shrimp into the egg mixture and then back into the cracker meal. Shake off excess and place on the lined cookie sheet. Continue this process until all shrimp have been dipped in the egg and dredged in the cracker meal.
Cover dredged shrimp loosely with another sheet of waxed paper and place in the refrigerator while you get the pan and oil ready or complete up to this step ahead of time. Keep shrimp chilled until ready to fry – up to 2 hours prior.
Fill a heavy bottom fry pan (cast iron skillet works great) about 1/2 way with oil. Be sure you have a platter lined with paper towels, a heat resistant fryer scoop/skimmer and a good pot holder or two on hand. Frying the shrimp will not take too long so fry when everything else you’re serving is done.
When the oil gets hot (but NOT smoking) add shrimp one at a time quickly. Do not crowd the shrimp by trying to fry too many at a time. In a 10″ skillet you should fit about a dozen medium shrimp. Fry about 2 minutes per side, turn over, continue to fry another 1-2 minutes and remove to the platter. The shrimp should be light to medium golden brown. Continue to fry in batches. Serve immediately with cocktail sauce, if preferred. Serves 4 adults. This recipe can be doubled, tripled or for a crowd quadrupled!