Butterfly shrimp were a childhood favorite on Ingram Street. They were fun to eat, flattened shrimp with the tails still attached, dipped in egg batter, fried, and topped with bacon. They lay on a bed of soft onions and lurid red sauce that we mostly ignored. It was all about the shrimp. The bacon was never crispy but limp, slightly sweet from the sauce, with a delicate meaty flavor. Alex was less than impressed when he saw the dish for the first time and yet somehow all of the shrimp disappeared.
Fast forward several years to when we were working on the manuscript for Maximum Flavor. We chose many recipes for the book just so we could perfect a home version of our favorite dishes to make for ourselves when the craving hit. General Tso's was Alex's take out dish of choice, so I worked on that one. I wanted Butterfly Shrimp. Of course Alex had to find a way to improve on the original, grinding the shrimp and bacon into a coarse forcemeat, forming it into shrimp-shaped patties and frying them to achieve a crisp exterior. He added a mustard dipping sauce with minced onion and fresh herbs to finish it off. Fair warning, these are addictive. A perfect addition to holiday parties or Sunday football gatherings, our butterfly shrimp are darned tasty. And since they were eventually cut from the manuscript we are sharing them here:
Serves 6 as an appetizer, up to 12 as an hors d'oeuvre
18 ounces / 500 grams shrimp peeled and de-veined
8.8 ounces / 250 grams bacon
zest of 2 lemons
½ teaspoon / 3 grams fine sea salt
5 green onions
2 tablespoons / 14 grams cornstarch
peanut or canola oil for frying
1 cup / 290 grams Dijon mustard
½ cup / 10 grams thai basil leaves
½ cup / 10 grams parsley leaves
1 tablespoon / minced onion
Cut the shrimp and bacon into 1-inch pieces and put them into a medium bowl with the lemon zest, salt and cornstarch. Stir the ingredients together and then put them through a meat grinder with ¼-inch die. Mix the ingredients together again and then grind half of it a second time and mix it back into the first batch. Use a small ice cream scoop (1-ounce capacity) to portion the shrimp mixture, it will make approximately 25 scoops, lay them out on 2 parchment or plastic wrap lined sheet pans, leaving 2-inches around each one, and then shape each portion into a flattened teardrop, approximately ½-inch thick resembling actual butterflied shrimp. Once all the shrimp patties are made, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour to firm up.
Preheat oven to 200°F/ 93°C
Put the mustard in a small bowl. Finely chop the basil and parsley leaves and add them to the bowl along with the minced onion. Stir to combine. Transfer to a serving dish and cover with plastic wrap. Reserve at room temperature until ready to serve. Set a large cast iron skillet on medium high heat and when it is hot cover the bottom with a thin film of rice bran or peanut oil. When the oil is hot add 8 shrimp patties to the oil and cook for 2 minutes and then flip them over and cook for another 1 minute. Remove the shrimp from the pan and put them on a rack set over a baking pan and keep warm in the oven while cooking the remaining shrimp. When the shrimp are all cooked, arrange them on large tray with the dipping sauce in the center.