Sunday, February 20, 2011

Shrimp Toasts ~ Chinese style

Shrimp Toasts
From the kitchen of Once Upon a Plate by Mari
Yield:  About 2 dozen small, or 1 dozen larger toasts

You may have enjoyed these at your favorite Chinese restaurant. Sometimes I serve them alongside a non-traditional "Chinese" Chicken Salad.  They make also are a delicious warm appetizer  to accompany your favorite cold beverage, or hot tea.  The traditional version is fried ~ but you can also bake them (to eliminate some of the calories.)

6 slices white sandwich bread
1/2 pound fresh prawns, or raw frozen (thawed), cleaned and de-veined
8 water chestnuts
2 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons 'dry' cocktail sherry (not cooking sherry)
1 small egg, lightly beaten (may substitute 1 egg white instead)
2 green onions (scallions), both white and green parts
Sesame seeds
Optional: fresh cilantro sprigs/leaves for garnish

For fried version:  Flavorless cooking oil, or peanut oil
For baked version only:  1/4 to 1/3 cup melted butter 

Leave bread slices out on a tray or baking sheet to dry for two hours.  Meanwhile, cut green onions, including green tops into 1-inch lengths. In the bowl of food processor fitted with the metal blade, process green onions until coarsely chopped. Add egg (or egg white), cornstarch, sherry and salt ~ process for 2 to 3 seconds.  Add water chestnuts and process with on-off pulses until coarsely chopped. Add shrimp and process with on-off bursts until finely chopped, and no large pieces remain; mixture should have a paste-like consistency.  Refrigerate, covered until ready to use, or if bread has already dried proceed immediately.

For fried version:  Trim crusts from bread and cut each slice into four squares, or cut diagonally from corner to corner to make 4 triangles. Alternately (for larger toasts) cut each slice of bread in half.

Spread prawn-mixture on one side of the bread pieces covering the entire surface, mounding slightly in center. Sprinkle sesame seeds and paprika on the filling, pressing lightly so they adhere to the surface of the mixture.

Heat oil in a deep-fryer or pot, (OR a heavy skillet with oil to a depth of a little over 1-inch deep).  When oil is hot, gently drop prepared bread pieces, shrimp side down, into the oil. Fry for about 30 seconds, then turn and fry on other side for another 30 seconds.  The cooking time is only an estimate, depending upon temperature of the oil. Both sides should be golden colored. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels, serve hot.

Make ahead tip:  Fry the prepared bread pieces only until they reach a light beige color, drain, cool and freeze in airtight container. To reheat: Preheat oven to 350* (F), place frozen toasts on a cookie sheet and heat for 12 minutes.  If toasts are already thawed, reheat for 5 or 6 minutes. Toasts will become a deeper brown as they bake.

For baked version: Remove bread crusts and brush melted butter on both sides of each slice. Spread shrimp mixture on one side of each slice, brush shrimp-mixture surface lightly with additional butter or unflavored vegetable oil.  Sprinkle surface of shrimp with sesame seeds and paprika, pressing gently to assure they adhere. 

Cut each slice of prepared bread twice on the diagonal to make 4 triangles.  Place on baking sheet (for easy clean-up, line baking sheet with baking parchment or a silicone baking mat.)
Make ahead tip: At this point you can cover with plastic film and refrigerate for up to 8 hours.

Position rack in center of oven and preheat to 375* (F). Bake uncovered for 10 minutes, or until bread is toasted. Watch carefully as oven temperatures vary ~ half-way through baking time I usually reduce oven temp. to 350* and allow them to bake a little longer. Beware, these can go from 'just golden' to 'dark brown' in a matter of moments. Serve hot.


For either version, I like to garnish with fresh cilantro.  I always serve these toasts with a small bowl of hot mustard for dipping.  For the hot mustard: Combine Coleman's dry mustard with a little cold water, adding water gradually to reach consistency. Mix in a few drops of vegetable oil to make mustard glossy, and prevent it from drying out.

I hope you enjoy!

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