Coconut Shrimp

When thinking of appetizers, there are so many possibilities. They can be any one of a number of finger foods or simply a smaller portion of a dinner entrée. One of my favorite foods to use for appetizers is shrimp. There are many ways to prepare shrimp from scampi-filled pastry shells to the more traditional shrimp cocktail.

Another way of preparing shrimp is a popular choice for either dinner or as appetizers. This preparation involves shrimp being cooked with a coconut crust, aptly called coconut shrimp. By simply changing the number or size of the shrimp, as well as the serving accompaniments, shrimp can either be served for dinner or for appetizers.

READ MORE: Try Chef Smitty’s recipe for Shrimp Cocktail

One suggestion for dinner would be to serve the shrimp with a rice that is made by adding toasted slivered almonds and small pineapple chunks. A light sweet and sour sauce would also go well with this dish, but be sure not to use too much sauce or you might mask many of the flavors of the coconut shrimp and rice.

Preparing the shrimp is simple. You have to find a way to get the coconut to stick to the shrimp and then it has to survive on the shrimp while cooking. One method of coating foods with some type of crust or breadcrumbs is to give the item a light coating of flour and then dip it in a well-beaten egg before dredging it. This method will work with the coconut, but there is a way to get a much lighter batter on the shrimp.

The trickiest part of the cooking process is trying to maintain a steady oil temperature.

Simply take an egg white and beat it until it is broken down. Add some cornstarch to make the mixture into a slurry-like consistency. This slurry can now be seasoned with salt and pepper and any additional herbs and spices you want to use to add flavor. The mix should be thick enough to stick to the shrimp with a light coat. Next, dredge the shrimp in the coconut and you are ready to fry them. Make sure the oil is hot before starting the coating process. The oil should be at 350 degrees and the shrimp should make the oil appear to boil as soon as contact is made.

The trickiest part of the cooking process is trying to maintain a steady oil temperature. If the oil is too cold, the shrimp will absorb the oil into the batter and you could loose a lot of the coconut, as well as end up with a greasier product. If the oil gets too hot, the coconut will burn before the shrimp is fully cooked. What I will do to make the process less stressful is to cook the shrimp in the oil long enough to give the coconut a nice golden brown texture on both sides. Then I will place it on a paper towel to get rid of any excess oil and finally finish them in another pan in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes.

As an appetizer, coconut shrimp will normally be served with a dipping sauce. There are many sauce choices from teriyaki to sweet and sour, as well as sweet and spicy. Here is a sauce that can easily be tailored to please a number of taste buds.

Heat a little orange marmalade with a little water. Add some sweet and sour sauce and spice it up with a little chili paste. Be careful with the chili paste because it can get pretty hot very quickly. This is a simple sauce to make and by changing the ratios of the ingredients you can vary the taste to please everyone. The ingredients can be mixed in a bowl and will work fine, but heating them will create more of a dipping texture as apposed to a jelly-like texture. No matter what your sauce, coconut shrimp will make a great treat.

Coconut shrimp
8 shrimp size 16/20 or six shrimp size 12/15
1 egg white, beaten
2 to 3 T cornstarch
1 to 2 C coconut
Salt and pepper
½- to1-inch deep oil in heavy pan

Mix the cornstarch into the beaten egg white to make a slurry that will lightly stick to the shrimp. Season this with salt and pepper. Dip the shrimp into the slurry and then dredge in the coconut. Fry until golden brown on both sides. Pat on paper towel to remove excess oil. Finish cooking in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes.

Dipping Sauce
4 T orange marmalade
2 T sweet and sour sauce
1 t chili paste
1 T water

Heat the marmalade on medium heat with water until the jam breaks down into a sticky liquid. Add the sweet and sour sauce. Slowly add the chili paste a small amount at a time. Vary the ratios of the ingredients for different tastes.

Chef Smitty

Smitty is a personal chef specializing in dinner parties, cooking classes and special events. Trained under Master Chef Anton Flory at Top Notch Resort in Stowe, Vt., Smitty is known for his creative use of fresh ingredients. Smitty has been teaching skiing at Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows for more than 26 years each winter, and spends his summers working for High Sierra Waterski School since 2000. Smitty has been writing his chef column for Tahoe Weekly since 2005.