Grandma Willie’s Arkansas “Shrimp”
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By Jessica Bright
Photos by Tammy Harrow
Family recipes are treasures. Rich with memories and flavor, they are often passed from generation to generation, reminders of family members and their histories. Occasionally, as with this recipe, they are quirky, too.
Recently, a friend from Arkansas mentioned that he loved his grandmother’s Arkansas Shrimp and missed having her make it. He offered to share her recipe. I was very curious how a chicken dish ended up with such a misnomer. Since Arkansas is a land-locked state, unlike Florida, shrimp aren’t readily available. To compensate for this deficiency, my friend’s grandmother would cut chicken into shrimp-sized pieces, then lightly batter, fry, and serve with cocktail sauce.
Try this recipe as his grandmother made it, with chicken. Or use actual shrimp, with the same batter and sauce, for a delicious fried shrimp dish. With chicken or shrimp, we hope you’ll find this recipe as tasty as it was when Grandma Willie made it!
- 1½ LBS. BONELESS CHICKEN
- 1½ TSP. SALT
- ½ TSP BLACK PEPPER
- 1 TSP ONION POWDER
- PINCH OF CAYENNE PEPPER (TO TASTE)
- 3 TBSP CORNSTARCH
- 1 TBSP SMOKED PAPRIKA*
- 3 TBSP PEANUT OR CANOLA OIL
- 2 EGG WHITES (UNBEATEN)
- OIL FOR FRYING
- 1 TSP GRANULATED SUGAR
- 1 TBSP CIDER VINEGAR
- 1 TSP HOT SAUCE
- ¼ CUP PREPARED HORSERADISH
- 1 CUP KETCHUP
- FRESH GROUND BLACK PEPPER TO TASTE
Cut chicken into one inch strips. Stir together salt, pepper, onion powder, cayenne, cornstarch, and paprika. Stir spice mixture into the chicken until all pieces are evenly coated. Allow the mixture to marinate for 15 minutes. Stir together egg whites and oil, and pour into chicken mixture. Stir to coat. In a large skillet or fryer, heat at least ½” of oil over medium high heat (about 350°F -375°F), and gently add the chicken pieces, one at a time, to the oil, leaving space between the pieces. Cook until golden and crisp, then turn and allow to fry on the other side. When thoroughly cooked, remove chicken from hot oil and allow to drain on a plate lined with paper towels.
Whisk together all cocktail sauce ingredients and serve with fried “shrimp.” Sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to one week.
Yields 4 servings
*Smoked paprika is available at the St. Augustine Spice and Tea Exchange. It has a subtle, smoky flavor.