Recently, on my way home from work, I had a sudden craving for shrimp toast, you know, the classic Chinese takeout appetizer. I wanted to try making it at home, even though I’d never attempted it.
There’s always that moment, during the drive home, when I consider whether I know exactly how to make the thing I am thinking of, or if I will need to improvise. This was definitely going to require some improvisation.
I imagined how shrimp toast tastes as it’s pulled out of the fryer. Hot and crunchy on the outside and soft and creamy shrimpiness on the inside. And then, as I waited at a red light, I came to a sad realization. Shrimp toast is great when it’s hot and fresh but given time, it cools and becomes a squishy, oily, shrimp-flavored sponge. The craving for takeout-style shrimp toast was gone.
I took a moment to think about what I was actually craving. In my mind, I imagined a baked, creamy shrimp spread on top of thick slices of toasted French bread. I couldn’t recall what the dish was actually called but I was evoking crostini. I kept referring to it as “shrimp toast” as I drove home and, in truth, that’s really all it is…it’s just not the deep fried Chinese takeout variety.
Since I was already in a seafood frame of mind I decided to pair the crostini with New Orleans-style blackened fish.
Shrimp Crostini with Blackened Tilapia
Ingredients for the Shrimp Crostini:
½ lb fresh shrimp, peeled, deveined and finely chopped
¼ cup diced green onions, chopped fine
3 Tbs mayonnaise
3 Tbs cream cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Cajun seasoning
½ tsp salt
9 slices of good quality, fresh French bread (1” thick)
2 Tbs butter
Peel and devein the shrimp. Rinse thoroughly under cool water. Chop into small pieces.
Add the shrimp and remaining ingredients, (excluding the bread!) to a large mix bowl. Beat the heck out everything with a whisk, fork or any other suitable weapon.
Prepare a 9” round ceramic backing dish by spreading 2 tablespoons of oil across the bottom and sides of the dish. Wipe away excess with a paper towel.
Add the shrimp mixture to the dish and press the mixture down firmly with your fingers, spreading it to the edges of the dish.
Bake in a 400° oven for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the top begins to brown. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
While the shrimp cools, prepare the French bread.
Slice the bread into 1” thick pieces.
Melt the butter and brush over both sides of the bread slices.
Place the pieces of bread in a 9” glass pie plate.
Using a spoon, or a small spatula, add dollops of the baked shrimp mixture to the toast. Press the toast together as tightly as possible.
Put the pie plate in a 400° oven for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the sides of the toast are crisp. Remove and cool on a wire rack.
Ingredients for the Blackened Tilapia:
3 Tbs Cajun seasoning
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp dried onion flake, ground fine
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp cayenne powder
1 tsp dried thyme
4 tilapia filets (about 1 lb)
Mix all of the dried seasonings together.
Spread the seasonings across a large platter.
Lay the tilapia filets on the seasoning and press down firmly with your hands to coat the fish. Turn the fish over and repeat.
Heat a heavy steel skillet or cast iron skillet to high heat.
Once the skillet is screaming hot, add the butter. Just as soon as the butter is almost completely melted, which will happen quickly, add the filets.
Stand back. Don’t mess with the fish. After about two minutes, the butter will brown. Carefully turn the fish over with a large flat spatula and let the fish fry for another two minutes. Press the fish with the side of your thumb. If it feels firm, it’s done. If it doesn’t feel firm, it will in about another 30 seconds.
Carefully remove the fish with a spatula and place on a serving dish.
Serve on a bed of steamed rice and steamed broccoli.
Louisiana hot sauce is the preferred condiment for the Shrimp Crostini and Blackened Fish. Use as directed.