~ Anchor-Deep Deep-Fried Shrimp w/Tartar Sauce ~
Circa 1960's and 1970's Anchor Deep Seafood was the name of a take-out seafood joint in my town, Tamaqua, PA. It was a block from my Great Aunt Mary's house, which was three-four blocks from the high school, where I had band or majorette practice after school three-four days a week, and, way back then, there was no "activities or sports bus" to shuttle us kids who lived in the burbs home -- our parents had to "deal with it". For years, I walked to Aunt Mary's after practice, then, around 5:15PM, my mom would pick me up after she left work. Mom and I both loved "The Deep's" deep-fried shrimp, and, I won't lie, a couple of times a week we'd pick up 'a basket' and snack on them during the 10-minute car ride home, to our home, in Hometown.
While we never ordered the optional side of French fries, we always asked for extra tartar sauce -- a creamy, lemony, mayonnaise concoction with bits of onion and sweet gherkins swimming around in it. It came with most of their fresh and fried fish and seafood selections (to name a few: baked haddock, crab cakes, beer-batter-dipped cod, clams and oyster "platters"). If a regular customer asked really nice, they'd sell him or her a cup of their "secret sauce" "under the table". Sadly, as with many main-street Mayberry-esque businesses in small towns with dwindling populations, incoming fast-food chains and strip malls caused them to close.
A bit about tartar sauce: Tartar sauce is a thick, rich, white mayo-based sauce that is typically served alongside or atop fish or seafood, however, it is quite delicious served with any number of raw or cooked vegetables -- including French fries. The French invented it, calling it "sauce tartare", and, they start by making mayonnaise made from scratch, which by all means do if you have the time and/or expertise. You can find my easy food-processor recipe, ~ How to: Make Homemade Mayonnaise ("Mayo"), ~ in Categories 8 or 20. When the classic egg yolk, lemon juice (or vinegar) and oil emulsion is complete, they simply add an herb (like chives, dill, parsley or chervil) some chopped gherkins and occasionally a minced shallot.
My recipe evolved over time, with the final "tweek" being: I'm wed to adding dried or fresh dill (if it is in season) to the mixture. It makes perfect sense, as dill pairs so well with fish and seafood. Personally, I think that whatever tartar sauce recipe you are making: mine, your grandmother's, a friend's or a stranger's, dill is the ingredient that really takes this simple recipe over the top!
1 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup finely-diced sweet gherkins or sweet pickle relish or a cominbation of both, to taste
1/4 cup very-finely diced yellow or sweet onion, to taste
1 tablespoon lemon juice, preferably fresh
3/4 teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
~ Step 1. In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients as listed. Transfer to a food storage container with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for at least 1-2 hours or overnight prior to serving chilled. Overnight is truly best, and, tartar sauce can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for about a week .
Let's talk beer-batter dipping & deep-frying shrimp!
2 pounds extra-large (26-30 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
2 cups pancake & waffle mix, for dredging
3 cups pancake & waffle mix, for batter
2 1/2 cups light beer, plus up to 1/2 cup additional beer (2, 12-ounce bottles)
1 1/2-2 8-ounce boxes panko breadcrumbs
peanut or corn oil for frying
Setting up the deep-frying assembly line (left to right):
One medium bowl containing 3 cups pancake mix whisked with 2 1/2 cups beer.
One 8" x 8" x 2" dish containing 2 cups panko breadcrumbs.
Deep-fryer w/peanut oil heated to 350 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.
Misc: 3-minute timer, tongs, cooling rack, paper towels, sea salt grinder.
~ Step 1. When everything is measured and in place, whisk together the pancake mix and beer. Set aside for about 5 minutes before starting the frying process. This will give the batter time to thicken to a drizzly consistency. If at any point during the frying process (even at the outset) if the batter seems or gets too thick, whisk in a little more beer (or some water) to maintain a drizzly consistency.
~ Step 2. Working in batches of 6 shrimp at a time, dredge each one in the dry pancake mix to coat it on all sides. Note: I fry 6 at a time because that is what fits comfortably in the basket of my fryer without overcrowding it.
~ Step 3. Next, move up the assembly line, and, using each shrimp tail as a handle, dip it into the batter, but not so deep as to coat the tail in batter. As you lift each one out of the batter, hold it over the bowl for a second or two, to allow the excess batter to drizzle back into the bowl. As you batter dip each shrimp, place it into the dish of panko breadcrumbs.
~ Step 4. Dredge each shrimp on all sides the moment it enters the panko meaning: do not wait to coat 6 shrimp in panko until all 6 are in the dish. Why? You don't want to give the thin coating of batter time to drip down off the sides.
~ Step 5. Using your fingertips or tongs (whatever you feel most comfortable using), carefully and gently lower each shrimp down into the oil (and fryer basket below) which has been preheated to 360 degrees according to manufacturer's specifications.
~ Step 6. Close the lid and fry at 360 degrees for exactly 3 1/2 minutes. Shrimp will be a beautiful golden brown. Do not overcook.
Tip: To transfer the shrimp, I like to tilt the basket onto its side directly over the rack. Using tongs is a easy way to damage their crust.
Immediately sprinkle shrimp with a grinding of sea salt.
Repeat the dredging, dipping and coating process until all shrimp are deep fried. Serve hot (almost immediately), warm (within 30 minutes), or at room temperature (within 1 hour). There's more: trust me when I tell you, these shrimp will remain crunchy well past the 4 hour mark!
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; 2 shallow 8" x 8" x 2" baking dishes or 9" pie dishes; medium-large bowl; whisk; deep-fryer; 3-minute egg timer; tongs; 17 1/2" x 12 1/2" baking pan; paper towels; cooling rack
Cook's Note: Anchor Deep served some seriously good batter-dipped chicken too -- my brother loved it. For my take on batter dipped chicken, using user-friendly boneless chicken tenders, click into Categories 1, 2 or 17 to get my recipe for ~ Chicken Things: Better Than Fried Chicken ~!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015