September 12

Fried Shrimp

Days Until. . .

Summer ends 10

Today's Flavor

Today is Fried Shrimp Day. Even though, to my palate, frying is a) the most boring way to cook shrimp and b) one of the most boring dishes of any kind out there. But I am out of the mainstream in believing this, so forget I said it. Still, let's look at these things. Seems to me the batter ought to be on the light side, that the shrimp ought to be in the range of medium (25 to 35 count to the pound), and (of course) that they be fresh, Louisiana wild-caught shrimp. That last qualification is not merely cheering for the home team. We really do have the world's best shrimp here, and although you can spend less on the farm-raised Asian shrimp that have taken over local supermarkets, you pay for it in flavor. Austins-FriedShrimpRem The coatings used for basic fried shrimp fall in four categories. The most common is seasoned flour, with corn meal or corn flour (or a mix of the two) being next most popular. A certain number of shrimp fryers prefer bread crumbs; this works particularly well if the shrimp are large and butterflied, so they come out more or less panneed. Finally there's tempura, the Japanese style of coating the shrimp in a batter made with flour and eggs. It gets puffy when it fries. (Eaters tend to either love or hate that last style.) Fried shrimp can go beyond the basic, and that's when they begin to hold my interest. They can be coated with the likes of pulverized nuts or coconut or even a semi-stuffing made of crabmeat or tasso mixed with cornmeal. Or wrapped with a piece of bacon, which also hold in place a wad of peppery cheese. Many such are served with a sauce, usually with a sweet-savory aspect. There's one more issue as regards fried shrimp: why do most restaurants in the upscale category believe that leaving the tail on makes them more valuable? Answer: it's all for looks.

The Old Kitchen Sage Sez

If you have some really nice, big, fresh shrimp, and you fry them, I'm going to come over and hit you over the head with a black iron skillet until you see the light.

Gourmet Gazetteer

Brownie Creek runs down the eastern slope of the High Sierra in east central California. It's twenty-eight miles west of the Nevada state line, and 106 miles south of Reno. It removes snowmelt from the mountains, forming a stream at 9390 feet, dropping 2100 feet in three miles to pour into the West Walker River. That's is an amazing blue-water stream for fishing in dramatic countryside. If you get hungry and catch no fish, it's thirteen miles to Davis's High Country Cafe in Coleville.

Eating Around The World

Today is National Revolution Day in Ethiopia, recalling the overthrow in 1974 of Emperor Haile Selassie. Although the thought of Ethiopia usually brings up the image of starvation in the minds of Americans, the cuisine of that country and its neighbor Eritrea is interesting enough that it's very popular in the cities where it's taken hold. Washington, D.C., for example, has dozens and perhaps hundreds of Ethiopian places. New Orleans has two--Nile and Abyssinia. To make a long story short, the cuisine has aspects of Middle Eastern and Indian food, with many unique aspects as well. A flat bread called injera is used to scoop up the thick stews. Ethiopian eating is distinctive as it is ancient.

Music To Make Toast By

Today in 1964, a one-hit wonder band called the Newbeats had a Number Three hit with a song called Bread And Butter. "I like bread and butter," it said, "I like toast and jam. That's what my baby feeds me. I'm her lovin' man." The lyrics go on to make a pretty obvious sexual double entendre, but apparently we were too innocent in those days to believe that's what they meant.

Edible Dictionary

durian, n.--A large tropical fruit with a husk is covered with broad, short spines, durian may be the world's most controversial fruit. It is both revered and despised for its smell, which has been described as resembling that of meat in an advanced state of decay. It's so offensive to so many people that in many cities it is officially banned from buses, trains, hotels, and other public places. Despite this powerful aroma (which some people profess to like), the flavor of the fruit itself is superb. It has aspects of mango, almond, and banana, plus an underlying creamy flavor that is often compared with custard. It is said that botanists are on the verge of creating a hybrid of durian with the wonderful flavor but not the awful aroma. Durian is native to the East Indies, with Borneo probably its original home. The name means "made of thorns" in Malay, a reference to its prickly exterior. It can be bought in this country, but neither easily nor cheaply.

Food Namesakes

Mathematician Haskell Brooks Curry was born today in 1900. . . American League Most Valuable Player in 1943, Spud Chandler, was born today in 1909. . . Rap singer Bizzy Bone was born today in 1976. . . Writer James Frey opened The Big Book today in 1969.

Words To Eat By

"Never eat Chinese food in Oklahoma."--Bryan Miller, former restaurant critic for the New York Times.

Words To Drink By

"A German wine label is one of the things life's too short for, a daunting testimony to that peculiar nation's love of detail and organization."--Kingsley Amis, author of Everyday Drinking.