You’d think a sandwich originally designed to feed hungry street car workers on strike in New Orleans would be an easy affair, no? Indeed the first so-called Po Boy sandwiches (for feeding the "poor boys" doing the striking) were simpler, more slapdash eats, but over the years this Louisiana shrimp sandwich has become more intricate and delicious. The main flavor driver here? It’s all about the remoulade, a sauce that, properly made, has no fewer than nine ingredients.
Aside from that sauce, the major player when it comes to a great Po Boy sandwich is the shrimp. Chef and food writer Tynia Peay of On Ty’s Plate says: "Aldi’s is my favorite place to buy shrimp because they don’t use preservatives like sodium tripolyphosphate [that’s] used in many brands. It’s also the best priced shrimp for the size, [as] their 19 to 23 count jumbo shrimp is sold in 12 ounce packages, and this recipe calls for one 1 and a 1/2 pounds of shrimp or two packages."
Peay has put together a recipe that rivals any you’d be served in the Big Easy today, but in true New Orleans spirit, know you can always put your own spin on things. There are so many "common toppings for shrimp Po Boys," she says, and "they include lettuce, tomato, mayo, pickles, and even chowchow [relish]."
Want to kick up the spice? "Adding Sriracha to the remoulade and a dash or two of cayenne pepper to the flour adds a nice kick!"
Gather your po boy ingredients
Recalling that fully nine of these ingredients go into that Remoulade sauce, don’t be overwhelmed by this list, folks. You can make these sandwiches! (And you really, really should.) For cooking the shrimp, you’ll need a 1/2 cup of milk, an egg, 1 tablespoon of hot sauce, 1 teaspoon of garlic powder, a ½ teaspoon of kosher salt, a ¼ teaspoon of black pepper, a 1/2 cup of all-purpose flour, a 1/4 cup of yellow cornmeal, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch ("the cornstarch adds crunch and the cornmeal adds texture," explains Peay), 2 teaspoons of baking powder, 1 1/2 teaspoons of creole seasoning, and Canola oil for frying. Oh, and 1 1/2 pounds of large shrimp, peeled and deveined.
Still with us? Okay, for the remoulade you need a cup of Duke’s mayonnaise (ideally, but branching out from the brand is fine), 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice, hot sauce, and horseradish, 2 teaspoons of capers, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, a 1/2 teaspoon of dried parsley, and a 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill.
And finally, for serving, you need four hoagie rolls and, as a base, shredded lettuce, sliced tomato, and dill pickle slices. And ideally some hand-cut fries!
Make the po boy’s remoulade sauce
Okay, that nine-ingredient sauce we keep talking about? The remoulade? It’s time. And speaking of time, once you have your ingredients measured, this step will take you all of about one minute. Gather the mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons of Dijon mustard, 1 tablespoon each of lemon juice, hot sauce, and horseradish, 2 teaspoons of capers, 1 teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce, a 1/2 tsp of dried parsley, and a 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill and then see if you can follow this decidedly complex process: Make the remoulade sauce by mixing all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
Well done! Now cover the remoulade and refrigerate it until it’s ready for use.
Prep the po boy wet ingredients then toss the shrimp
Place the peeled and deveined shrimp in a medium mixing bowl close at hand. In a separate bowl, beat together the milk, the egg, the hot sauce, the garlic powder, the kosher salt, and the pepper.
Make sure everything blends and mixes well, then toss the shrimp in the milk mixture. (Note you can either pour the shrimp into the wet ingredient bowl and then toss and stir, or pour the wet over the shrimp and toss, there’s no wrong way to do it.)
Mix the po boy dry ingredients then coat the shrimp
In another bowl, mix the flour, the cornmeal, the cornstarch, the baking powder, and the creole seasoning, stirring well until every dry ingredient is mixed in. Now coat the drenched shrimp in the dry mix a few shrimp at a time, and then set them aside (on paper towels or, better yet a wire rack) and allow them to rest for at least ten minutes for the coating to stick best during the frying process.
You can start heating the oil at about the eight minute mark.
Pan fry the shrimp them assemble the sandwiches and serve
You’ll want to heat about 2 1/2 cups of canola oil in a shallow skillet or large saucepan over medium flame (to around 340º to 350ºF) for the best frying. Fry the shrimp in two or three batches to avoid over crowding, and rotate each shrimp once as it cooks. Each will require only a couple minutes to be ready. (You can cut one or two in half to make sure they are cooked through.)
Keep control of the oil temperature by lowering and/or raising the heat as needed to keep a rolling fry going.
Once all the shrimp are cooked, give them a minute to drip off on paper towels or a rack, then assemble the sandwiches. Go heavy pouring on the remoulade, use lettuce, tomato and pickles, and stuff at least nine or ten shrimp into each hoagie bun.