Last weekend I made my first visit to Pacific Produce, in south Milwaukee. It’s a large Asian grocery, specializing in Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, and Thai foods, produce, meat, and seafood. I could have wandered those aisles for the entire day and not seen everything they have to offer. There were items I had never seen (or heard of) before. From the most common ingredients, such as rice, soy sauce, and noodles, to the more unusual; they had pig uteruses, and I have no idea how that would be prepared. It only served to remind me of how very little I know of Asian cuisine and culture. I left the store with some jars and bottles, and armed with a new cookbook, I attempted several new recipes. Both were good, but not perfect. My home kitchen just doesn’t have the BTU’s to fire up a wok to the proper temperature to make an authentic stir-fry. I over-spiced my chicken and peanuts, but my husband plowed through it, downing a cold beer and wiping the tears from his eyes. He’s a trooper! I have decided I need to take some classes from a master of Asian cuisine. However, today’s recipe is one I have been contemplating for a while. It’s a staple of Chinese restaurant fare, but the method of preparation is decidedly French. And that is a technique I know very well! Shrimp toast consists of a paste of pureed shrimp, egg, and seasonings spread on thinly sliced bread triangles and fried to a golden brown. The shrimp mixture is nothing more than a classic mousseline; a delicate emulsion of meat (or seafood), egg, and cream. Mousseline is used for stuffings, terrine, sausages, and quenelles. It is a very versatile preparation, and I made lots of it in my days at Le Cordon Bleu. So here is a basic recipe for shrimp toasts; perhaps not the most traditional, but very good nonetheless.
(makes about 20 toast triangles*)
Plain white sandwich bread, such as Pepperidge Farm brand, crusts trimmed
8 ounces shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 large egg (or 2 large egg whites)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon peeled and grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 scallions, coarsely chopped
4 ounces heavy cream
White or black sesame seeds for garnish
Vegetable oil, for frying
Soy Dipping Sauce, to serve
Prepare about 10 slices of bread by trimming the crusts and cutting each in half diagonally. Set aside. (Be sure that all your ingredients are very cold. Mousseline is a perishable mixture; set the finished shrimp paste in a bowl over ice as you work to prepare the toasts). Place the chilled shrimp, egg, salt, ginger, garlic, and scallions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse to chop coarsely. With the motor running, stream in the cold cream and process to a thick paste. Remove the mixture to a medium bowl and refrigerate, if not using immediately. To prepare the toasts, spread a generous 2 teaspoons of the shrimp mousseline over each bread triangle. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Heat 1/3 to 1/2 cup vegetable oil in a large, non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Carefully set each toast, shrimp side down, into the pan. Fry until golden brown, then turn and fry the bread side until toasty brown. Watch this very carefully, as the bread will toast quite quickly! Take care not to burn the toast. Remove the shrimp toasts to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to drain briefly. Transfer them to a rack over another baking sheet and hold in a 200°F oven while you fry the remainder of your toasts. Serve with a simple soy dipping sauce and enjoy!
* You can cut the bread into quarters to make smaller triangles for bite-sized shrimp toasts. The yield will be much greater with this option.
(minimally adapted from “Ratio” by Michael Ruhlman)
For a simple Soy Dipping Sauce: Mix together 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons toasted sesame oil, a pinch of brown sugar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Add some thinly sliced scallion greens, if you like. Serve with your shrimp toasts.