Justin Kennedy, head chef and general manager of Parkway Bakery & Tavern, a New Orleans staple that’s been serving po’boys for almost 90 years. According to Kennedy, the “poor boy” sandwich was created in 1929 during the Great Depression.
“The street car conductors were not getting paid, so they went on strike,” Kennedy explains. “Benny and Clovis Martin, who were former conductors themselves, had a grocery and coffee stand. They put the word out, if a hungry striker in need came by their shop, they would feed that poor boy.”
Though the first po’boy was made with fried potatoes, roast beef and gravy on French bread, the sandwich has evolved to include many fillings, including the popular shrimp version.
In our recipe, we marinate shrimp in hot sauce and buttermilk before breading them in a spiced cornmeal mixture and frying them until crisp.
Then we layer the shrimp on a classic French roll with hot sauce-laden mayo, lettuce, tomato and sliced cornichons. This is a sandwich that requires two hands and your full attention (see the recipe).
“Po’boy bread is light and airy, never too dense inside, with a thin, crisp crust. This makes it easy for the star of the po’boy to be the filling, with the bread playing a beautiful supporting role,” Lagasse explains.
The one thing to keep in mind is how fast the bread goes stale. You’re going to want to buy your bread the same day you’re making your sandwiches to ensure it maintains its light and fluffy interior.
1lb deep fried (or baked) tiny breaded shrimp
¼ cup Crystal hot sauce, divided
1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup mayonnaise
Two 10-inch po’boy rolls or French hero rolls, halved lengthwise
1 beefsteak tomato, thinly sliced
1 cup shredded iceberg lettuce
2 tablespoons thinly sliced cornichons, for garnish
Whisk together ½ tablespoon of salt with cayenne, oregano, thyme, garlic powder and pepper, and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of the hot sauce with the mayonnaise, add spices, and mix until smooth.
Spread the mayonnaise mixture on both halves of the rolls. On the bottom halves, divide the fried shrimp, top with the sliced tomatoes, shredded lettuce and sliced cornichons.
Affix the top halves, then slice in half and serve.
Home Chef Note: For an equally awesome Po’ Boy, replace the shrimp with battered, deep friend oysters (extra-small.)