Friday Fuck Ups: The Illusive Fried Shrimp Head
A funny thing happened a few weeks back. And I have to say I’m still a little shocked I’m actually saying this, but credit where credit is due. A few Sundays back, Food Network actually did something that kinda blew my mind.
As much trash talk as I dish out on Food Network programming, this new show of theirs, The Best Thing I Ever Ate is pretty damn good. It probably also helped that the episode I caught just happened to be the Best Fried food tribute. I’m sure there are other lovely categories, but an entire show dedicated to the wondrous variety of fried foods is without question one of FN’s better attempts to win over viewers.
It was Duff’s obsession with the apparently abundant but never advertised part of an animal we rarely think about eating: shrimp heads. Fried shrimp heads. A whole basket of them! I knew immediately that I had to learn how to make these little delicacies. And that’s pretty much when everything starts to go down hill…
I looked everywhere [on the internet] and flipped through all my cook books, but alas, found virtually nothing on the subject of how to deep fry a shrimp head. Did they need to be coated? With what? Cornstarch? Tempura batter? What about bread crumbs? How do you gut these things? What’s that orange goop? Anything I need to know about oil temperature?
Thanks for playing.
I don’t mind rolling blind in the kitchen these days, but I had a feeling this wasn’t going to be easy. So I picked up some jumbo prawns from the local market, heads still on, removed the tails as I would normally, and stared at the spiny insect face wondering what I should do with it. I figured that I should remove as much of the insides as I could, thinking the frying oil probably wouldn’t react well to wet guts.
Then into a dry coat of cornstarch the heads went and into the fryer. No dice. Oil was too hot at that point, heads fried way too fast and got burnt badly. Second batch not much better.
Then I tried a cornstarch bath by adding water and giving the heads a wet coat. Again no luck. The fry wasn’t bad, but the issue was that the shrimp heads weren’t frying right. I couldn’t get that light, crispy texture out of the heads. I got chewy or burnt. There was that interesting flavor when you bit right into the brain part of the head, but most of the textures weren’t really edible.
After several more failed attempts I’m still a little stumped on where I’m going wrong. How can I create this amazing deliciousness Duff was raving about? Am I going to be burned yet again by another Food Network show disappointment?
ES readers, Help! For the love of all that is good and unholy and fried, please show me the way!
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