Cracked Shrimp with Comeback Sauce

Carla Hall

Washington, D.C.

"Usually, I can take or leave shrimp. But this dish? You better watch out, ‘cause I could polish it all off. Skillet-fried shrimp stay hot and juicy in their golden crackly crust and they cool just enough after a dip in comeback sauce, an addictive mix that’s Thousand Islands meets rémoulade. The secret to this dish is the ‘cracking.’ When I was cooking as a private chef in the Bahamas, I learned how to crack conch. The notoriously tough local conch had to be pounded with a mallet to make it tender enough to eat. Shrimp have a texture that starts softer, so a little tap, tap with a rolling pin is enough to flatten and tenderize them. In that smashed state, they need only a quick dunk in bubbling oil to turn into the most delicious fried shrimp you’ll ever eat."—Carla Hall


Comeback Sauce: (makes about 1 2/3 cups)

  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup chile sauce, like Sriracha
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce
  • 1 clove garlic, grated on a Microplane
  • 2 tablespoons minced yellow onion
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cracked Shrimp:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Kosher Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, plus more for serving
  • 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left intact
  • Vegetable oil, for frying
  • Lemon wedges, for serving


Make the Comeback Sauce: purée all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Serve immediately or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Prepare the shrimp: whisk the flour, cornstarch, paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper in a pie plate. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl until frothy, then whisk in the evaporated milk, parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Gently pound the shrimp with a rolling pin until cracked and flattened.

Fill a large cast iron skillet with oil to a depth of 1/4 inch. Heat over medium-high heat until hot but not smoking. Dip a shrimp into the egg mixture, then dredge in the flour mixture, shake off excess batter, and slip into the hot oil. Repeat with enough shrimp to fill the skillet without crowding it. Fry, turning once, until golden, about 1 minute per side. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.

Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with parsley. Serve hot with lemon wedges for squeezing and Comeback Sauce for dipping.


Reprinted with permission from Carla Hall's Soul Food by Carla Hall with Genevieve Ko, copyright © 2018. Published by Harper Wave.


6 servings