I spend a lot of time cooking and a lot of time eating. So when I’m cooking at home, I like to find ways to add a healthier twist. Bonus points if it makes execution easier as well. Bonus bonus points if it’s a sandwich. The recipe in question? Shrimp po’ boys.
First, a history
These tasty sandwiches were born during the violent riots of the New Orleans transit strike in 1929. In support of the strike, streetcar-conductors-turned-restaurateurs Bennie and Clovis Martin declared, “Our meal is free to any members of Division 194…We are with you till hell freezes, and when it does, we will furnish blankets to keep you warm.”
And the Martin brothers kept their promise, providing roast-beef-and-gravy sandwiches to the strikers. They even worked with a local baker, John Gendusa, to create more uniformly-shaped French bread loaves, which made for 20-inch half-loaf sandwiches and 15-inch standard-sized ones. The larger poor boy sandwiches were 15 cents (yes, really!), the standard size was 10 cents, and plain lettuce-and-tomato sandwiches were free.
As for the name, Bennie Martin famously said, “Whenever we saw one of the striking men coming, one of us would say, ‘Here comes another poor boy.’”
I guess they really are “poor boys” and not “po’ boys” because Errol Laborde, editor of New Orleans Magazine, wrote a blog post about it.
But since we all know this sandwich as a “po’ boy” I kept it in the headline. Because, you know, SEO or whatever.
And now, the recipe
Normally, a shrimp poor boy would have deep-fried battered shrimp, some kind of mayonnaise or aioli, and some lettuce and tomato. But let’s keep it simple. And still juicy and bursting with flavor. For inspiration, I checked out recipes from Patrick and Geena Neely, Food52, and Emeril Lagasse.
You can also check out Carole’s Chatter for some more really great shrimp ideas. Over there, she put together a list of ingredients that go well with with delicious prawns, including basil, coriander, garlic, scallions and tons more. Plus, there are links to all kinds of shrimp recipes.
Serves: About 6
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 8-10 minutes
6 French bread rolls: 4″ or 6″
1 large beefsteak or heirloom tomato, thinly sliced
For the shrimp marinade:
2/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1.5 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined
For the garlic aioli:
1/3 cup light mayonnaise
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Marinate the shrimp: In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, Worcestershire, paprika, salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper, oregano and thyme. Add the smashed garlic. Transfer to a bowl or tupperware big enough to hold the shrimp. Add shrimp in a single layer. Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to 1 hour. The shrimp will look like they’re spooning. Like this:
2. Make garlic aioli: In a small bowl, mix together the light mayonnaise, lemon juice and minced garlic. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Taste. Add a dash more lemon juice or garlic, if you like. Apologize later for your stinky breath.
3. Prepare tomato and bread: While you wait the 30 minutes to 1 hour for the shrimp to marinate, have a few beers. Also, slice your tomato and get your bread ready. If you bought a French baguette, slice it to your desired sandwich size. I like 6 inches. (That’s what she said.)
4. Grill shrimp: Preferably, grab your iron griddle. If you don’t have one, you can saute in a stainless steel pan. Get your griddle or pan hot over medium-high heat. Grill the shrimp until just done, about 3 minutes on each side.
5. Heat bread: If desired, when done grilling shrimp, warm the bread on the griddle, about 1-2 minutes.
6. Assemble: For each sandwich, spread about 1 tablespoon aioli on each baguette, add about 2 tomato slices and add about 4 ounces of shrimp. Serve!
How to de-vein shrimp: Take a small knife and cut a small slit across the back of the un-peeled shrimp, inserting your blade about 1/3 of the way through. Peel off most of the shell, legs and tail. Wipe off the intestinal tract, or what looks like black thread. If you like, keep the shells, legs and tails to make shrimp stock.
What if I don’t like spicy food? You’re missing out! But seriously, if you’re not into that spicy kick, you can skip the cayenne pepper.