Coconut Shrimp: Air- and Deep-Fried

I love my deep fryer, but nights I want to use it are guaranteed to be a mess. What my new air fryer lacks in deep fried goodness it makes up for with fast, low maintenance recipes. Or does it?

With the two fryers and a lot of time on my hands, I tried a few foods in both the deep fryer and the air fryer: coconut shrimp, fried pickles, and deep fried Oreos. Some things I learned

  • You can’t put something battered in the air fryer without splattering it everywhere. So, no deep fried Oreos.
  • Instead of batter, coating it in a faux breading with bread crumbs works!
  • Unsurprisingly, the deep fryer food was delicious. But I can still see a place for the air fryer in these traditionally deep fried foods for a healthy alternative!

I’ve included below a recipe for the batter I used for the deep fryer.

Air Fryer Batter

I set up a bowl of 2-3 eggs, whisked, and a bowl of 2 cups bread crumbs for the air fryer experiments. Since this was coconut shrimp, I added 1/3  cup shredded coconut to the breadcrumbs.

Deep-fried (left) and air-fried (right)

Deep Fryer Batter

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Pinch salt
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1/4 cup vodka (*this extends its longevity while you cook!)
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 quarts canola or peanut oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl with a fork.
  2. Whisk egg and vodka together. Add to dry ingredients and stir vigorously until well blended.
  3. Toss shrimp (or whatever you’re frying) in batter. Fry at 350 degrees or according to manufacturer instructions until batter is golden.

File Gumbo

Merideth and I share a lot of the same tastes in food including, as we discussed over one of our recent Distance Dishes dinners, food that can be served in bowls! For me, this is mostly for convenience (read: laziness), but combining food in one pot also gives the flavors a chance to blend together.

This dinner happened to fall right before Mardi Gras, so I thought something Creole would be fun! Plus, it gave me an excuse to go spice shopping (I have the Room of Requirement of spices) to get file powder. File powder is ground sassafras root that serves as a thickener stirred in just before serving and adds a sweet flavor. I also used homemade seafood stock with the peeled shells of the shrimp I needed and vegetable scraps (carrot tops, onion skins, celery hearts) that I save in the freezer. Store bought works as well, but homemade has better sodium content and makes me feel good for upcycling kitchen scraps!

Ingredients

  • 4 cups vegetable or seafood stock (homemade recipe here)
  • 2 tbs canola oil
  • 2-3 diced medium onions (about 1 cup)
  • 4 diced celery stalks
  • 2 chopped bell peppers
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp hot sauce, or more to taste
  • 1 tbs creole mix seasoning
  • 3/4 cup tomato sauce
  • 1 lb crab meat
  • 1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (reserve shells for seafood stock, if making homemade)
  • 1 1/2 tbs file powder

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Instructions

  1. Heat oil in large pot. Add onions, celery, and green pepper and saute until onions brown lightly.
  2. Add garlic, hot pepper sauce, and creole seasoning. Stir frequently and saute for 4 minutes.
  3. Add tomato sauce and simmer for 3 minutes. Add stock and summer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add shrimp and crab meat. Cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, add file powder and stir to combine.

Wine Pairing: Just before I made this recipe, I received my seasonal subscription from my local winery! I signed up for a mixed shipment hoping to broaden my horizons past red wine, and one of the white wines, a Viognier, was just what I needed for the gumbo. It has a little bit of the rich oak taste that makes wines like Chardonnay pair so well with shellfish, but has a fruitness that tones down the spice from the hot sauce. Refreshing!