May It Please the Palate ...

The Lazy Man’s Shrimp Toast

By Nick Roumel

I’m back, after a two week hiatus involving a civil rights trial. I was thankful for a modest verdict that we must now fight to keep.

The judge kept me on my toes throughout. At one point he corrected me regarding a case I had cited, after having my brief on his desk for only five minutes. But in the middle of the trial, he really knocked me for a loop. From the bench, he intoned, “So counselor, I’ve been reading your food column, writing about walleye, and such.” A small smile, then he moved on.

And so must I. There is a tendency after a trial to go full-blown lazy, and stay there. From 17-hour days, to hammocks in the shade, letting the messages and bills pile up while I protest, “I’m on a well-deserved vacation.”

But deadlines don’t stop, daughters have to get ready for school, and patient editors want to fill space again. Grudgingly, I decided to do a lazy man’s column.

At first, I tried to get my daughter to fill in for me. She used to have a food blog, so I thought she’d be eager. But she kept demurring, even tonight as she made udon noodle salad with julienne vegetables and peanut sauce. “Why don’t you write about that one?” I asked her. “But it’s from a cookbook, Dad!” “That’s OK,” I told her. Wide eyed, she asked, “You mean, you don’t create all your own recipes?”

No, honeybunches, sometimes I wing it. Like tonight, when I am making “The Lazy Man’s Shrimp Toast.” Feel free to borrow – just make sure to correctly cite your source.

Step one, what stores are open after 9 PM on Labor Day? Oh darn, just Whole Paycheck. Now there’s a funny store. I go to the bakery and ask for day old bread. “We don’t have any,” he said. “We donate it all to the homeless shelter.” Fine, I nodded, not commenting on the big pile of bread packages in the garbage bin behind him.

Then there’s the produce section. There must be 300 types of fruits, herbs, and vegetables. “Cilantro?” I asked, poking between the two-foot high pile of curly parsley and dill. “We’re fresh out, sir,” she said ruefully, as if I should understand the annual clamor for cilantro on Labor Day.

Four items and $38 later, I came home and spread out my items. I added some relatively cheap lobster to the shrimp, along with pork, green onion, and egg. I had some dried cilantro at home, but when the recipe called for fish sauce, I decided against making the arduous trip to the downstairs refrigerator, and left it out altogether.

I also decided against slicing the crusts off the bread. Because it had rounded corners, I felt that would be somewhat difficult. And instead of making a sweet chili sauce garnish, I found some very serviceable Sriracha (a.k.a. Rooster Sauce).

Basically this recipe is in three steps: (1) Put stuff in a food processor. (2) Spread it on bread. (3) Deep fry that puppy. While I am skeptical that this is really a traditional Thai recipe, whether called “Kanom Pang Na Moo” or otherwise, it’s pretty tasty.

Pork and Shrimp Toast 
(Lazily adapted from The Original Thai Cookbook, Jennifer Brennan)

2 TBS coriander (cilantro), including roots, finely chopped
1 tsp ground black pepper
3 cloves garlic
6 oz. ground pork
6 oz. shrimp
6 oz. lobster
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 TBS shrimp powder (I did not use. Couldn’t find any. Too lazy)
1 TBS Nam Pla fish sauce (I did not use. Downstairs. Too lazy)
1/2 tsp salt (I did not use. Wary of adding salt with all the other ingredients)
1 egg, beaten
10 slices stale bread, crusts trimmed
vegetable oil for deep frying
coriander sprigs for garnish

Sriracha or chili sauce
1. Put the first three items in a food processor until ground fine.
2. Add the next three items and blend into a slightly chunky paste.
3. Remove to a bowl, add the next five items, and mix well.
4. Spread onto crustless bread.
5. Heat oil ? inch deep to medium high.
6. When the oil is hot, fry meat side down QUICKLY. When edges brown, flip and remove QUICKLY to paper towels.
7. Garnish with more cilantro, Sriracha, and serve with cold beer, just like the Thai people do.

By the way, feel free to leave out the pork. I made this many years ago for a dinner party just with shrimp, garnishing the finished product with sesame seeds. Frankly, you can pretty much deep fry anything and your guests will be happy.

Now making the judge happy, that’s another matter altogether. If anyone has any tips, I’m all ears. I just hope you do a better job of cite checking than I did.