Sometimes a serendipitous food discovery can send you down a delicious path. I’ve always loved shrimp. My husband, who grew up on Bayou Lafourche in South Louisiana, likes to say his family was so poor they had to eat shrimp every day.
Back in the day, his family very much lived off the land and sea. When shrimp season opened, my in-laws would go trawling and, if conditions were right, bring home bushels full. Some of the sweet, fresh-from-the-Gulf shrimp would be boiled and eaten right away as a celebration of the haul. The rest would be cleaned, packaged, dated and divided among the shrimpers.
By the time I came on the scene, the trawling days were beginning to wane. Still, there was always plenty of fresh shrimp to be fried or fricasseed. One of my favorite flavor memories from trips down the bayou was my father-in-law’s bacon-wrapped shrimp.
If the stars were aligned, we’d arrive as he was wrapping each peeled shrimp in bacon, sticking a toothpick through and lining them up like soldiers on a baking sheet. Then, he’d slip them into the oven until they were crispy. (My husband joked that he started making these later in life when the family could afford the bacon.)
I would have to physically remove myself from the table to stop eating them. They sparked me to start experimenting with mild shrimp and bold bacon as a powerhouse flavor combo.
Since then, I’ve whipped up a warm bacon vinaigrette to dress a boiled shrimp salad; slipped bacon into the sauce for shrimp and grits; added bacon slices to cold shrimp rolls; and tossed crisp bacon pieces with shrimp in creamy pasta dishes.
Those are good, but my favorite way to bring the two together – besides those bacon-wrapped delights – is with these shrimp burgers. I fry the bacon until it is crisp, drain it well and then crumble it into bits. The shrimp are chopped, lightly seasoned and then formed into patties. (The bacon is salty, so go easy on adding salt to the shrimp mixture.)
The patties are delicate to handle, so I chill them a bit before stuffing them. To stuff, I press a dent into one patty, fill that dent with crumbled bacon and top it with another patty, pressing both together to seal it all up. The finishing touch: I fry them in the reserved bacon fat.
I’ve eaten these on a hamburger bun, but I prefer to slip them between lightly toasted French bread slices or crusty rolls. If the tomatoes are ripe and red, I’ll add a thick slice and a few lettuce leaves, too.
Are these better with fresh-from-the-sea shrimp? Of course. Still, I’ve made them with shrimp pulled from the grocery’s freezer and enjoyed them – almost – as much.
Check the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch website and app for details on which shrimp are the most sustainable choices.
Bacon-Stuffed Shrimp Burgers
1 pound peeled and deveined raw shrimp
6 tablespoons panko, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 scallions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons hot sauce
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt (optional)
3 strips bacon
1 loaf French bread, sliced into 6 (4-inch-long) pieces and lightly toasted
Mayonnaise, for serving
Sliced tomato, for serving
Lettuce, for serving
Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel. In a food processor, add the shrimp and pulse, scraping down the sides as needed, until just finely chopped but not pureed into a paste.
Transfer the shrimp to a large bowl and add the panko, horseradish, egg, scallions, hot sauce and salt, if using. Gently mix to combine; the mixture should easily form into patties. If it is too wet, add more panko a scant tablespoon at a time.
Divide the shrimp mixture into 12 equal portions and shape into patties about 2 inches wide and ½-inch thick. Lay the patties on a large, rimmed baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap or a towel and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes and up to 1 day.
In a large frying pan over medium heat, fry the bacon until crisp. Transfer to a paper towel-lined platter. Roughly chop the bacon. Reserve the bacon drippings in the pan.
Just before cooking, remove the patties from the refrigerator. Divide the chopped bacon into six equal portions. Using your thumb, make a dent in the center of six of the patties.
Place a portion of bacon in each dent. Top each with another patty and press the edges together to seal, checking each patty on all sides to be sure. Gently flatten each patty to about ¾-inch thick.
Reheat the bacon drippings in the large skillet over medium heat, until shimmering. Gently add the patties, without crowding, until golden and firm, 5 to 7 minutes, turning once after about 3 minutes.
Serve on lightly toasted French bread, with mayonnaise, tomato and lettuce – and with dill pickle spears and potato chips on the side.
Yield: 6 servings
Make ahead: Before stuffing, the shrimp patties may be refrigerated, tightly covered, for up to 2 days.
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