I wrote about chicken Caesar salad sandwiches for this blog almost two years ago—a little over a month after I started this award-eligible sandwich blog. Between then and now I’ve made Caesar dressing one or two other times and each time I make it, I’m reminded how much I like it and how easy it is to make.
This time, instead of chicken, we’re cooking up some shrimp—in landlocked Chicago—and we’ll be making blackened shrimp Caesar subs. Read along with me on this sandwich journey.
Blackened seasoning and technique
Way back in 1980, Chef Paul Prudhomme is credited with inventing the cooking technique known as “blackened” where he would use a special seasoning blend on seafood, primarily fish, and then cook it in a pan until the fish had charred and turned black. Alabama Gulf Seafood has a bit of history of the blackened seafood technique if you’d like to read more.
Blackened seasoning is effectively a dry rub that lends a lot of flavor to whatever protein it’s rubbed on. The typical blackened cooking process takes place in a pan, skillet, or on a grill but if you’re not worried about the coloring process of blackening, the seasoned fish or meat could be baked. The coloration of the blackening process will not be the same, but the flavors should be right there due to the seasoning.
Seasoning the shrimp
Baked shrimp technique
My shrimp for this sandwich uses a similar seasoning blend to most blackened recipes, but since I roast these in the oven, they do not pick up the same charred black color that you’d see in most blackened seafood.
The cooking process I use is based on the way my wife has cooked shrimp for quite a few years now. She claims that it is foolproof for tender shrimp that aren’t overcooked and after about a thousand shrimp cocktail snack-time situations, I am willing to agree.
This method calls for cooking shrimp on a sheet pan for 8 minutes at 400 degrees F (or 205 C). First, put the shrimp in a bowl with olive oil, salt, and ground black pepper, toss it up, and cook them on a sheet pan in the oven.
I did the same for these shrimps except I added blackened spice. So, it’s not technically the “Chef Paul Prudhomme method of blackening” but it still tastes great and has a flavor similar to other blackened fish I’ve eaten.
The sub rolls
For the bread in this sandwiching situation, I chose my Chicago-style sub rolls. I have baked these a few times for this blog at this point, but they’re leaning hard toward an American type of Italian-style sub sandwich roll recipe with a bit of chew and a slight crusty texture on the outside.
I feel like the chewiness really works well in this sandwich because this is a Caesar salad with no croutons and this bread is filling that spot. For me, the chew really works alongside crunchy romaine and tender shrimp. It doesn’t hurt that the Caesar dressing also sops into the bread to create texture contrasts there as well.
Parmesan frico or crisp
I’m not sure if everyone knows what a “frico” is but apparently it means fried cheese in Italian. Frico is also one of the easiest ways to add crunch and savory saltiness to any sandwich.
I used this parmesan frico in the last Caesar salad sandwich post almost two years ago. It’s great for this sort of sandwich or even a salad because it adds texture, saltiness, and flavor. It also requires almost no effort other than making sure you set a timer.
The process for creating a parmesan frico turns grated parmesan cheese into a crispy wafer in a 350-degree F (175 C) oven for 8 to 12 minutes.
The Caesar dressing
Making Caesar dressing starts with garlic and anchovy filets. Along with a tiny bit of kosher salt, you turn both the garlic and anchovies into a paste which brings a huge amount of flavor pop to the final dressing.
At the end of the Caesar dressing creation, you drizzle oil very slowly while whisking everything together to form an emulsion and then the final step is whisking in finely grated parmesan which brings the whole dressing to a close.
The hardest part of making Caesar dressing is the workout you will experience while whisking for 5 minutes or so.
The salad part of the Caesar salad sandwich
For this sandwich, I made the salad part very simple. It’s just romaine lettuce leaves, sliced into smaller pieces and some pieces of quartered red onion. You could pretty much add any salad fixin’s at this point that makes you happy, like quartered cherry tomatoes or even pieces of sliced cucumber. But we just kept it simple to keep the focus on the shrimp and the Caesar dressing.
Here are some photos of the shrimp subs that I made this week. The recipe is a bit down below too.
This shrimp sandwich is a super flavor and textural sandwich experience.
Ingredients:Caesar salad dressing
- 2 oz can oil packed anchovy fillets
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon Worchestershire sauce
- 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil
- 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 pound raw shrimp, peeled
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup parmesan cheese, finely grated
- 4 five to six-inch bread rolls
- 1 to 2 cups romaine lettuce
- 1⁄4 cup thinly sliced red onion (optional)
- Caesar dressing (from above)
- 4 Parmesan fricos (from above)
- blackened shrimp (from above)
Caesar salad dressing: drain your anchovies and put them on a cutting board with your peeled garlic cloves. Start chopping them both together and get them to a fine dice. At this point, you should add a small pinch of kosher salt and mash/chop all three ingredients until you are left with a smooth paste. This may take a few minutes. You can use the side of your knife and drag it through the paste to smash and help smooth everything out. Adding salt will help this process.
In a medium mixing bowl, add your egg yolks, lemon juice, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce and whisk to combine well.
Add the anchovy and garlic mixture to the mixing bowl with your egg yolk mixture and whisk again for a minute to make sure everything is incorporated.
The next part is the magic in the dressing-making process. This is the point where you'll be emulsifying the dressing. You want to add your vegetable oil very slowly while whisking everything together. I like to measure out my oil and add it to a clean squirt bottle. But you can use a measuring cup with a spout. At first, you will want to almost add the oil drop by drop. This will take a few minutes and you will probably be left with a sore arm, but it's worth it. Just keep slowly adding oil and whisking until you're left with a smooth, thickened dressing that is thinner than mayonnaise, but still has a slightly thick consistency.
Add your Parmesan cheese and whisk to incorporate it with everything else.
Pour dressing into a jar or container with a lid and store in the fridge for a week or so.
Blackened and baked shrimp: combine all the blackened seasoning ingredients in a small bowl and mix to combine.
Add shrimp to a large bowl and pour the olive oil over the shrimp. Salt the shrimp and toss to get each shrimp coated with oil and seasoned with salt.
Add a tablespoon and a teaspoon of the blackened seasoning to the shrimp and toss everything to combine and get the seasoning coating for each shrimp.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (205 C).
Add shrimp to a sheet pan, making sure that they aren't too crowded together, and bake them for 8 minutes.
Store any uneaten shrimp in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days.
Crispy parmesan frico: when you're about ready to start sandwiching, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
Add four 1/4 cup scoops of grated parmesan cheese to a Silpat or a lightly greased sheet pan. Make sure the piles of cheese are spread apart because the cheese will spread out as it cooks and melts.
When the oven is preheated, place the sheet pan inside and cook the parmesan for 8 to 12 minutes or until the cheese has fully spread out. Allow the cheese to cool for at least 5 minutes before trying to remove it from the sheet pan.
Sandwich assembly: slice the bread rolls if needed.
Add romaine lettuce, sliced red onion, and/or any other salad items you're using to a large bowl. Pour on Caesar dressing and toss the salad in the bowl to coat and combine everything.
Add the tossed and dressed salad to all four sliced bread rolls. Add a broken-up parmesan frico to each sandwich.
Stuff each sandwich with 8 to 10 blackened shrimp.
Serve sandwiches and enjoy.
Check back next week for no seafood but also no beef
Three beef-focused sandwiches in a row can’t be offset by just one shrimp sub. So next week we’ll still be on the non-beefy trail. Come back on Monday to see where we end up.
If you made it all the way down here, I’m just letting you know that I’ve launched a Patreon page for Bounded by Buns. This means you can support my sandwich blog if you’d like and in return, I am sharing inside information on the next sandwiches that are coming down the pipe. I will also be running polls of any supporters to see what sandwich I should write about next. And finally, I plan to occasionally randomly select a patron to tell me what sandwich they want me to make for a future blog post.