I guess you could say I’m a bit obsessed with po-boys lately. In the weeks leading up to the po-boy festival, I visited a couple of my favorite po-boy spots to reminisce, to remember how good the basics can be. I had fried shrimp at Parkway and shrimp and oyster at Crabby Jack’s, and then those wonderful little odd po-boys at the fest. I thought I’d had my fill for a while, until Paul told me he’d overhead someone talking about a blackened shrimp po-boy. My interest was piqued. Then, he said, “It’d be good with a little bacon sprinkled on it.” Yes, it would. Then, “And maybe some goat cheese?” I almost fainted. Yes, blackened shrimp with bacon and goat cheese would be good–very, very good. If it sounds bizarre or even blasphemous to load a seafood po-boy down with extras like bacon and cheese, consider the Peacemaker, that ultra-delicious po-boy of fried oysters, bacon, and (at certain places) American cheese. Sounds crazy, but it’s fantastic. If American cheese can’t hurt a po-boy, then for sure goat cheese couldn’t.
We thought for a minute about making a fancy mayo to go with this, but ended up sticking with straight mayo. And you know, that was a good move, because the spicy blackening mix rubs off the shrimp as you scrunch it together for eating purposes, forming a little mayo-blackening rub sauce. And the goat cheese will melt a little bit of itself into that sauce too, and then you get something that the po-boy gods would be proud of. About the cabbage: it’s hardier and more assertive than lettuce or soft greens, with a flavor that can stand up to and support all of this spicy-salty goodness; plus its crunch actually holds up to all the smooshing and chomping that happens in the process of eating a po-boy like this. I love it.
It’s essential to use a cast-iron skillet to get anything blackened–the burned-on bits are where the “black” comes from, after all. If you don’t have one, use a skillet without a nonstick coating, so you can get some brownish burned bits that will hopefully stick on your shrimp. This blackening mixture comes from the marvelous Chili Cheese Fries; if you haven’t been to his site yet, you might want to check out some of the awesomeness therein.
- 4 slices bacon (uncured, slightly sweet bacon is really nice here)
- 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- blackening mix: 1 teaspoon each of dried oregano, dried thyme, dried basil, dried rosemary, ground black pepper, salt, onion powder, and garlic powder; 4 teaspoons paprika; ½ teaspoon white pepper; ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 thick slices of ripe tomato, cut in half
- 1 cup thinly shredded green cabbage
- mayonnaise, about 2 Tablespoons
- po-boy bread, 3 6"-long pieces split in half, or 3 6" pieces of other French bread (preferably with no preservatives and a not-too-hard crust), lightly toasted
- ½ cup crumbled fresh goat cheese
- Heat a medium (9") cast-iron skillet over medium heat and add the bacon slices. Cook bacon, turning occasionally, until dark and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes; drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
- While the bacon cooks, combine all ingredients for the blackening mix in a medium bowl, mixing very well. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry with paper towels, then add to the bowl with the blackening mix, tossing well to coat evenly. Let shrimp come to room temperature while the bacon finishes.
- You might want to open a window and turn on the vent, cause it's about to get real smoky. Spoon out all but 1 Tablespoon of bacon grease from the skillet (if you have a little less than that, that's ok), and heat skillet over high heat, until the grease just starts to smoke. Add the shrimp and stir-fry, scraping up any burned bits in the skillet, until just done, about 6 minutes (more or less, depending on size of shrimp). Remove to a bowl to keep warm while you assemble the sandwiches.
- Chop the cooled bacon slices into little pieces if you like, or just cut them in half . For each sandwich, spread a thin layer of mayo on both cut sides of bread. On the bottom half, place a small handful of cabbage, then two tomato half-slices, then salt and pepper to taste, then a pile of shrimp, then bacon, then goat cheese. Smoosh the top bread piece down a little to get the cheese to start melting.
- You're on your way to shrimpy bacon bliss.