Dec 3, 2008

I Want Dat Dressed!

Before I start rambling on and on (come on, now, if you’ve been reading this blog you know I do that. I’m not ashamed of that, no.) about the gloriousness that is a Po’ Boy, I have to tell a story. A food-funny, if you will.

I lived in MO for about 5 years. The second summer I was there, my grandma came to visit. My grandma, bless her heart, has lived in New Orleans her entire life. Sure, she’s traveled here and there, but she has always held firm in her New Awlinianness. So, grandma and I are out and about in midwest-opolis and decide to get some sandwiches for lunch (she calls it dinner or, rather, “dinnah”). I order. Grandma’s turn. She orders her sandwich and then adds (If you are from the New Orleans area, you know what’s coming so hush up and don’t give it away)...grandma looks at the gal behind the counter and says, “Yeah...I want dat dressed. Thank ya!” That poor girl. So confused. First, she can barely understand this woman’s funny accent and then there’s the request itself. Dressed? What? I guess I should have stepped in, explained, set everything straight. But, where’s the fun in that? Grandma was able to muddle through the communication problem...and she came away with a dressed sandwich to boot.

So here’s the scoop. “Dressed” means you want some stuff on your sandwich—lettuce, tomato, pickles, etc.

Commercial Break:
Here’s an interesting article about
New Orleans speak.

Want to hear a sample?

One story goes something like this: Po’ Boys (subs or hoagies to outsiders) came about when streetcar (no, they’re not trolleys...ever heard of A Trolley Named Desire? Didn’t think so.) conductors went on strike in the 1920s. It was a big dang deal. Streetcars were set on fire, people were beaten. A local restaurant owner felt bad for the guys on strike and started making sandwiches from this and that and sold it to the strikers for just pennies. When a hungry striker would come around for a sandwich, someone in the restaurant would say, “Here’s another poor boy.”

Po’ Boys can be made with many different things. Oyster Po’ Boys are made with fried oysters, Shrimp Po’ Boys with fried shrimp, Catfish Po’ Boys with fried catfish. Not all Po’ Boys include fried seafood though. There are Ham and Cheese Po’ Boys, Pork Chop Po’ Boys (often bone and all), Hot Sausage Po’ Boys, Egg Po’ Boys, French Fry Po’ Boys and my #1 favorite the Roast Beef Po’ Boy, fully dressed, dripping lots of homemade gravy. My second favorite is a Shrimp Po’ Boy. I like Catfish Po’ Boys too.

The key to a great Po’ Boy, in my opinion, is using really, really good French bread. None of this hoagie roll baloney. You need bread that’s crispy on the outside, light, airy, and soft on the inside. Also, a few bites into it, if you don’t have shredded lettuce or cabbage strewn everywhere like confetti and if you don’t have something—could be roast beef gravy, tartar sauce, remoulade, or saliva—if something isn’t dripping down your arm, you ain’t done it right.

The neighborhood I grew up in had a corner grocery/sandwich shop (Mike’s) that sold Po’ Boys and Sno-Balls. I loved walking down there on a Saturday to get a roast beef Po’ Boy or a chocolate Sno-ball. After school, when my bus driver got to my corner, she’d often pull to the side of the road, run in, and get herself a fried egg or a hot sausage Po’ Boy. I’m not sure that was exactly legal, but I couldn’t blame her.

Want to try a Shrimp Po’ Boy? Below is how I make ‘em. Some people like pickles on them. I like pickles, but not on a shrimp po’ boy. Some add onion. Some like mayo or tartar sauce. I sometimes use tartar sauce, but prefer them with remoulade (another New Orleans classic).

My preference for Po’ Boys, is to use a cornmeal-based coating on the shrimp. I prefer the lightness of it to a heavily battered shrimp. As my grandpa used to say “I don’t wanna tell ya what tuh do, but if I were you...”

Shrimp Po’ Boys w/ Remoulade Sauce
from Ms. enPlace

raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (if you need them to be); about a dozen per person (depends on size)
buttermilk to cover shrimp
hot sauce
all purpose flour
yellow cornmeal
salt, black pepper, cayenne, Cajun seasoning, lemon pepper (you be the judge)
oil for frying
French bread
shredded lettuce
sliced tomatoes
remoulade sauce (below) or mayonnaise or tartar sauce

In a bowl, add enough buttermilk to cover shrimp. Add hot sauce to taste and stir. Add shrimp. Place in refrigerator and chill for about 20-30 minutes.

While the shrimp are chilling, use the time to shred the lettuce, slice the tomatoes, and slice your bread.

Start heating up your oil to 350-375. Mix flour and cornmeal together. I like a 2:1 ratio of cornmeal to flour, but I like the texture of cornmeal. Some prefer equal parts of each, some half as much cornmeal to flour. Season the flour/cornmeal mixture with salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, Cajun seasoning, and/or lemon pepper. Here’s where you use what you like or what you have. Mix the seasonings into the flour and taste. Yes, taste the flour mixture, just a little sprinkle. How else are you going to know if it’s seasoned right? Do you taste the seasonings? Do you see the seasonings? Yes? Good. Remember, the flavor has to punch through bread, lettuce, tomatoes, etc. Don’t be shy here.

Drain the shrimp. Roll them around in the flour and cornmeal mixture to coat. When your oil is up to temperature, fry the shrimp until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

If you’d like, you can crisp up your bread in the oven while the shrimp cook, but you don’t have to.

Place shrimp on one half of the bread. Dress the other half with mayo, or tartar sauce if using. I like to smear a bit of remoulade on the bread and drizzle a nice helping over the shrimp. Also dress with lettuce, tomato, and pickles and onions if you’d like. Hey, Burger King’s got nothin’ on Po’ Boy can have this any way your little heart desires.

Prepare the shrimp. Peel and devein if not already done.

Mix buttermilk and hot sauce, add shrimp and chill for 20-30 minutes.

Prepare the coating. Mix all purpose flour and yellow cornmeal. I like a 2:1 ratio of cornmeal to flour; you can do what you want. Add whatever seasonings you like. I like black pepper, cayenne, Cajun seasoning, and paprika. Sometimes lemon pepper if I want to go crazy. Mix in the seasonings and taste the flour to make sure you got it right.

Start prepping the lettuce, tomato, and bread. Notice that the bread isn't cut all the way through. This helps hold things in place. Also, I like to cut the bread at an creates a little arrow that begs "start eating here." The remoulade sauce pictured was made the day before to allow the flavor to develop. Oh...start heating your oil while you're at it.

Set up your frying station. Do it in the natural order: shrimp, coating, hot oil, place to drain...boom, boom, boom, boom. Everything in order, that's what mise en place is all about!

Coat the shrimp with the seasoned flour/cornmeal mixture.

Fry until golden brown.

First batch done!

A thing of beauty.


Remoulade is a sexy little sauce that is traditionally served as part of “Shrimp Remoulade,” a classic New Orleans dish. Boiled shrimp are placed on a bed of lettuce and topped with remoulade. People are using it for all kinds of things now...a dipping sauce for various fried treats (usually seafood), on Po’ Boys, I even use it as a salad dressing. The recipe below will make enough for four large Po’ Boys and some lagniappe.

from Ms. enPlace

4 Tablespoons olive oil
2 Tablespoons wine vinegar (red or white)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 ¾-2 teaspoon prepared horseradish
4 Tablespoons Creole mustard
2 teaspoons paprika
2 stalks celery, chopped fine
2-3 green onions, chopped fine
2 Tablespoons parsley, minced
Note: for Po' Boys, I like to add some mayonnaise to thicken the sauce

Thoroughly whisk oil, vinegar, and salt. Add remaining sauce ingredients, mix and refrigerate. This sauce keeps well for several days in refrigerator. It should be prepared ahead of time for maximum flavor.

What you'll need. If you have lemon, a squirt or two of lemon juice wouldn't hurt any, no.

Whisk oil, vinegar, and salt together.

Add everything else. Be sure to chop the vegetables fine.

For Po' Boys, I like to add a tablespoon or so of mayo to help thicken the sauce. Mix everything together and chill. This is one of those things that's better if made ahead.

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  1. Hey Michelle! I used to post on BBC's cooking board way back when, and a recent lurk led me to your blog. I can't wait to try these po'boys, and wanted to congratulate you on such a site!

  2. Thanks, Kristen. Glad you like it and hope you like the Po' Boys. You should jump in on the cooking board!


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