Sunday, February 26, 2012

Of Shrimp Cutlets and Cooking Competitions

 I googled cutlet for a descriptive idea on the word. My search led me to a reference list of countries and each one's definition of a cutlet, with variances according to region, country, and culture. In Italy,veal with a breadcrumb/batter coating makes the famous Milanese cutlet. Austria lists the cutlet as a schnitzel- flattened, boneless meat coated in breadcrumbs. In Britain, it's referred to also as the chop.

And, here in America, the cutlet is  the familiar breaded and pan fried chicken or pork.
So, my google search was successful in explaining that a cutlet here could mean something entirely different elsewhere.

 Now to short pass over to the Indian derivation. Cutlet is a short eat containing a cooked ground/ mashed filling hugged in an eggwash/ crumb combo. Stuffed patties that you can fill with almost any ingredient of choice, ground beef, lamb, chicken. These fried packets can envelope seafood, even veggies and cottage cheese. With a few good ingredients, the cutlet-filling possibilities are endless.
This particular recipe is one which contains my favorite shellfish...shrimp.

I entered the RWOP( Real Women Of Philadelphia)  in a season of one their online cooking competitions. I actually loved it, the friendships and the support of the women saw this domestic mama through rather challenging, yet creative culinary sprints. For eight weeks, home cooks throughout the country create and submit recipes in a chance to be a finalist, along with a video featuring a highlighted Philadelphia product.

One of my submissions was this crustacean- stuffed croquette complemented with a spicy, sweet dip. The breadcrumbs pair with some uncooked cream of wheat for a textured crunch. The dip and the cutlet both contain cream cheese.

Though I didn't make finalist, I gained this dish in the recipe-making process. The appetizer has topped my family's favorite fried foods (4 f's). I'm sharing it with some modifications. 
Shrimp Cutlets
  • 1 pound(s) of small, cooked,( fresh or frozen) shrimp, defrosted and drained of any moisture
  • 1/2 medium onion, coarsely chopped 
  • *1 serrano or jalapeno,seeded for preference, chopped in half
  • 1 tbsp of ginger,coarsely chopped
  • 1 ounce(s) of Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp. of cornflour
  • 1 tsp. of salt
  • 1 tsp. of pepper
  • eggs lightly beaten
  • *1 cup(s) of breadcrumbs
  • *1/2 cup(s) of Cream of Wheat (rawa), uncooked
  •  oil  for frying
Method:
Before and after breading
  •  Put first ingredients( from shrimp to cream cheese) in a food processor and mix till blended and slightly chunky.
  • Add in corn flour, salt, pepper and pulse two or three quick pulses till blended.
  • Have your beaten egg ready in a wide mouthed bowl (enough to dunk the cutlet).
  • In separate wide-mouthed bowl, combine your breadcrumbs and Cream of Wheat.
  • Make assembly station on your counter/work space with the bowls- first shrimp mixture, second the beaten egg and third the breadcrumb/Cream of Wheat mix and finally, a lined baking sheet to rest your cutlets in the wait period before frying.
  • *Using your hand and a a tablespoon as measure and to mold shrimp mixture, press against the spoon to shape mixture into an oval or disk (doesn't have to be perfect) 2-3 inches in lengths and 1/2 inch breadth . Dip into egg wash, then, into your breadcrumb mixture. 
  • Set aside all your cutlets on your baking sheet and let rest for at least 5 minutes.
  • * Fill a frying pan with enough oil to shallow fry. Heat oil.
  •  Fry the cutlets over medium heat, about 2 minutes per side, until a golden brown. Lay the fried cutlets onto a paper towel- lined dish, so as to drain any extra oil.

Hot and Sweet Dip:
  • 4 ounce(s) of Philadelphia cream cheese
  • 2 tbsp of Greek style plain yogurt
  • 1 tsp Asian chili sauce(Sriracha)
  • 1 tsp ketchup
  • 1 tsp apricot preserves
  • 1 pinch of salt
Method:

  • Beat together cream cheese, yogurt, chili sauce, ketchup, apricot preserves in a food processor until well blended. Taste and season with salt accordingly. Keep aside.
  • Serve cutlets warm with the hot and sweet dip on the side.




Notes:

For low heat tolerance, deseed jalapeno. Also, go easy on the chili sauce in the dip.

You can make your own breadcrumbs, just pulse a few crustless slices in a processor and there you have it ...crumbled bread.

Instead of cream of wheat, substitute with an additional 1/2 cup of breadcrumbs.

To test the oil, dip the handle of a wooden spoon and if the oil surrounding bubbles, it's ready.

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