One Friday in Lent, I was out of meatless ideas when my boyfriend suggested popcorn shrimp (like the kind out of a box in the freezer section). I had two problems with that:
- I couldn’t find any at my closest grocery store.
- Just, yuck.
If I had found it, I was going to make myself salmon instead along with broccoli and leftover fries. However, I could only find frozen and raw shrimp, and the raw shrimp was on sale, so I grabbed about 1.5 pounds and went home to figure out how to make my own popcorn shrimp. As always, I did my research and found a lot of conflicting recipes, but each recipe had a few redeeming qualities that I took and combined into one process. Most recipes used egg as a base to stick the breading to the shrimp, but a few used oil or butter. While butter is more flavorful, I didn’t think that would be effective to stick a lot of breading on the shrimp. So I combined the two and went for an egg with some melted butter. I also mixed in some garlic powder and Old Bay, because as Emeril used to say when he still made shows, “I don’t know where you get your [eggs], but where I get mine they don’t come seasoned!”
One recipe also said to do a light coating of flour before dipping in the egg and breading, which made a lot of sense. The flour would combine with the egg and create a thin layer of starchy goo, typical of the boxed stuff, that would coat the shrimp completely even if some of the breading fell off. The breading was the easy part to create. I used panko bread crumbs (I found whole wheat ones a few days before and bought them just for fun- good thing I did!), parmesan, and lots of seasonings like salt, onion powder, pepper, and Old Bay.
There were also conflicting baking techniques, but I decided to go high-and-fast rather than low-and-slow. Yes, I had to watch carefully to make sure that the shrimp didn’t overcook, but the high temps along with a coating of cooking spray allowed the breading to get all brown and crispy before the shrimp overcooked.
I will admit that my boyfriend still would’ve preferred the boxed stuff, but I loved these. I was grateful the next day for the leftovers! As opposed to packaged popcorn shrimp, which contains these ingredients:
SHRIMP, BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR, SOYBEAN OIL, ENRICHED BLEACHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, IRON AS FERROUS SULFATE, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), WATER, YELLOW CORN FLOUR, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF EACH OF THE FOLLOWING: CITRIC ACID, DEXTROSE, DISODIUM INOSINATE AND DISODIUM GUANYLATE, ENRICHED WHEAT FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE, RIBOFLAVIN, FOLIC ACID), GARLIC POWDER, LEAVENING (SODIUM ACID PYROPHOSPHATE, BAKING SODA), METHYLCELLULOSE, PAPRIKA OLEORESIN, SALT, SODIUM ALGINATE, SODIUM BISULFITE (AS A PRESERVATIVE), SODIUM TRIPOLYPHOSPHATE (TO RETAIN MOISTURE), SUGAR, WHEY POWDER, YEAST.
(I’m a food scientist and I don’t know what most of these are), this recipe contains only ingredients that I control and is, in my opinion, completely guilt-free. It is definitely a recipe I will go back to for future meat-free meals.
- 1 1/2 lbs shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 1/2 cups whole wheat panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- Seasonings to taste- salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, Old Bay
- 1/2 cup AP flour
- 1 egg
- 1 Tbsp olive oil or melted butter
- Cooking spray
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- Set up three bowls: one with flour, one with the egg and oil whisked together, and one with the breadcrumbs, Parmesan, and seasonings.
- Dip the shrimp (using one hand) in the flour and then the egg mixture, letting excess drip off. Put shrimp in the breadcrumb mixture and coat thoroughly (with the other hand).
- Place on baking sheet lined with parchment. When all shrimp are coated, press half of the excess breading on the shrimp and spray with cooking spray to coat.
- Bake for 4-5 minutes on one side, then remove from oven, flip over (they aren't all that hot, so you can use your fingers), press on the remaining breadcrumbs, and coat again with cooking spray.
- Bake for another 4-5 minutes, until opaque and the breading is browned.
- Sprinkle with salt while hot, if needed.