Ever wanted to learn how to make a poboy sandwich at home? You’ve come to the right place. With Mardi Gras a few short days away, it might be time to break out the cajun spices and French bread for a little sumptuous lunch action this weekend. The thing about New Orlean’s iconic shrimp poboy is that it feels like something that takes a lot of effort. We’re here to dispell that.
There are a few key things you need for this sandwich. One is fresh, ethically sourced shrimp. I used white shrimp which is common in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The second big component is the bread. There are only a few bakeries in NOLA that actually produce the perfect crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside loaves. I had to go to a restaurant supplier here in Berlin to find French rolls that are very, very similar to New Orlean’s French bread. And, well, that’s just going to have to do.
The below recipe takes very little time outside of shelling and deveining the shrimp. Is it worth it? I resoundingly say yes. This sandwich is a goddamn delight. It’s texturally wonderful and has the perfect balance of spice, herbs, and seafood in a very handy sandwich form. Let’s put on some beads, dive in, and “Laissez Les Bons Temps Rouler.”
This recipe makes two six-inch poboys.
1-lb White Shrimp, raw
1 cup Buttermilk
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Cornmeal
2 cups Vegetable Oil
1 Deli Dill Pickle
1 Beefsteak Tomato
1/4 head of Iceberg Lettuce
Freshly baked French Bread Rolls
Crystal Hot Sauce
Cajun Spice Mix:
1 tbsp. Garlic Powder
1 tbsp. Onion Powder
1 tbsp. Paprika
1 tbsp. Dried Thyme
1 tbsp. Dried Oregano
1 tbsp. Dried Basil
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Black Pepper
1 tsp. White Pepper
1 tsp. Sea Salt
5 Bowls for mixing spices, peeling shrimp, and dredging
10-inch Cast Iron Skillet
Food-safe Wrapping Paper
The first thing you need to do is peel and devein your shrimp. Don’t worry. This is a lot easier than it looks.
What you want to do is the following. Break off the head and discard it in a bowl. Hold the shrimp in your dominate hand with the tail facing you. Use your non-dominate hand to pull back the shell starting at the head just enough that it loosens. Continue that action downward towards the tail. Once you get to the tail, the shell should peel right off with little effort.
The next part takes a little skill. Again, don’t worry. With patience and repetition, you got this. You should be able to see a dark green line running just under the flesh on the back of the shrimp. Use the blade of a sharp paring knife to run a very shallow slit along the back of the shrimp from head to tail. An eight-of-an-inch should be more than enough to expose the vein. Use the tip of the knife to lift up the vein at the head and pull the whole thing out in one motion. It should lift out with little to no effort. Rinse. Repeat.
I also cut my shrimp in half so that each morsel is about one-inch long.
Once that’s done, I make my cajun spice mix. This is really straightforward. Simply combine all the spices listed above into a bowl and mix with a fork until well blended.
I then set up my dredging station. I mix the flour and cornmeal into one bowl, pour the buttermilk into another bowl, and then I toss the shrimp with about half of the cajun spice mix.
I set up my station from left to right with a receiving plate. Using my left hand, I dip my cajun spiced shrimp into the buttermilk. Then with my right hand, I dredge the shrimp in the flour/cornmeal breading and place them on a plate to rest. That’s it.
You need to let those breaded shrimp rest for at least ten minutes (if not 20) to let the breading do its thing. So in the meantime, I ready my sandwich station. I use a mandolin to shred the lettuce and do a thin cut on both the tomato and the pickle.
We’re ready to cook!
While the shrimp was resting and I was slicing tomatoes, I got a cast iron skillet on a medium-high flame. I’m using neutral vegetable oil. Once it hits 350F, we’re ready to cook.
I fry off the shrimp in two batches. Be vigilant here. You don’t need to fuss too much with the shrimp. But, you don’t want to overcook them either (no one wants rubbery shrimp). I fish my shrimp from the oil after about 90 seconds, maybe two minutes max.
I fry the second batch and place all of them together on a serving plate lined with a couple of layers of paper towel.
I then generously salt the shrimp and squeeze a half a lemon’s worth of juice over the still piping hot fried shrimp. I pop one in my mouth and, wow, these are perfect.
I like my poboys “dressed” when I’m in NOLA, so that’s what I’m doing here. I put a layer of mayo on both sides of the bread and dash the top layer with hot sauce. I stack the bottom layer with two layers of the fried shrimp.
I then add three thin slices of tomato and about six thin slices of pickle to that. The lettuce goes on the other side, and I’m getting really excited about this poboy.
Far too often, home cooks skip the crucial step of wrapping a hot sandwich or burger. When you wrap a sandwich like this, it gives the flavors a chance to mingle and congeal ever so slightly. That’s what amps up that x-factor when you order from your favorite joint.
So, yes, I wrap this poboy up and let it rest for a few minutes.
It’s time to slice into this bad boy and see what we have. And, wow, this is exactly what I was looking for. The fried shrimp is beautifully spiced with a nice hint of heat and herbs. The soft bread, thin tomato and pickle, and crunchy lettuce accent without overwhelming the fried shrimp — which have held up their crunch wonderfully. The texture of the shrimp is soft and almost creamy without a moment of rubberiness.
I will 100 percent be making this sandwich more often. Bon appetit, mon ami!