Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay:
“Shrimp is the fruit of the sea.” – from Forrest Gump
Somebody once jokingly commented that I must have been a mermaid in a previous life because I love the water and shrimp. I have to say I was a bit puzzled by the latter because I can’t fathom what the exact correlation between a crustacean and an imaginary sea creature might be. But the water thing, definitely.
I have hand-shoveled at least seven ponds at my previous residential locations (even rentals), including the one at this house that is happily teeming with multicolored fantail goldfish. In our foyer that doubles as my office, there is a beautiful Italian fountain that Adam gave me our first Christmas here and its constant gurgling and trickling sound soothes and comforts me as I type away on my laptop. There’s the natural waterfall that our house overlooks, a man-made version by our deck with an unidentified design flaw that causes it to leak water, and, of course, there’s the river that lazily bends and courses its way through our property. We also have a boat and we spend lots of time cruising around Lake James every chance we can get. My favorite television show as a kid was Gilligan’s Island. My favorite city in the whole world is Venice [sigh]. And, my husband is a cusp Aquarius/Pisces. We’re talking lots of water here, folks.
But it’s no surprise where my love of this colorless liquid comes from. I grew up in Fort Myers, Florida, and we had beaches and harbors galore. I was, quite literally, engulfed by water. And the shrimp thing, you ask? Well, every Saturday night when I was growing up, my grandfather would pull out his two-quart aluminum pot with the wooden-handled french fry basket and anoint those babies in hot oil in small batches. Oh, how I loved those breaded, briny beauties. I pictured my Poppa driving to the docks every Saturday morning, chatting with his seafaring buddies and picking up those juicy, succulent fruits of the sea just off the boat, waving goodbye with dinner in tow, and cheerfully whistling a happy tune on his way home. I was in my mid-twenties when I learned that was not the case and quite by accident. Apparently, all those wonderful Saturday night shellfish fries from my elementary years were not born of fresh, just-bought jewels from the Gulf of Mexico. No! They were Seapak shrimp from the frozen foods section of the local grocery store! I couldn’t believe it! All those available, fresh shrimp out there and my frugal Poppa bought frozen to save a couple of bucks. Oh, the sacrilege! The betrayal! I can laugh about it now, but it took a long while to get over the disillusionment, let me tell you. But, now when I reminisce about those Saturday nights with that dear, sweet man at the stove frying up our shrimp dinner, I think I’ll just leave out the “frozen” part. I like my version so much better.
This recipe gives you the crunch of fried shrimp without having to go through the hot oil business. Perfect as an appetizer, lunch and company-worthy dinner.
Oven Fried Shrimp
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for the pan
- 1-1/2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails on
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large rimmed baking sheet. In a bowl, whisk together the panko, paprika, parsley, lemon zest, salt and garlic powder. Using your left hand, hold a shrimp by its tail and dunk in the butter, allowing the excess to drip back into the bowl. Toss the shrimp in the bowl of the panko mixture. Use your right hand to lightly press on the coating and shake off any excess. Put the shrimp on the prepared baking sheet.
- Repeat with remaining shrimp (place the shrimp in a single layer). Drizzle the remaining butter over the shrimp and bake until the shrimp are cooked through and the topping is golden, about 10 minutes.
Planning: Actually, frozen shrimp (plain, not already breaded) are wonderful to keep on hand – especially during the holidays. They’re just as good as fresh and can be defrosted in no time. I always have some in my freezer.
Product Purity: Many brands of panko breadcrumbs are made with hydrogenated oils, so check your label.
Presentation: Serve with lemon wedges and good cocktail sauce.