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1/2 pound small shrimp (more than 55 per pound), peeled and deveined, or precooked cold-water or baby shrimp, thawed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 celery stalks, minced
1 medium onion, minced
1/4 cup mayonnaise (regular or low-fat, but not fat free)
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup minced dill
4 dashes Tobasco sauce, or more to taste
2 1/4 cups plain dry bread crumbs
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
If you're using raw shrimp, bring 1 1/2 quarts salted water to a boil in a medium pot over high heat. Fill a medium bowl half way with ice water and set it aside. Add the shrimp to the boiling water and cook until pink and firm, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or a strainer, transfer the shrimp to the ice water and let cool completely. Drain the shrimp and blot dry on paper towels. If you're using precooked shrimp omit this step. Heat 2 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large skillet set over medium heat. Add the celery and onion and cook, stirring often, until the onion is translucent and the celery softens, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
Add the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, Tobasco sauce, and 1/4 cup of the bread crumbs to the cooked vegetables and mix until well blended. Add the salt and pepper. Coarsely chop the shrimp and add to the mayonnaise mixture. Stir until well combined. Place the remaining 2 cups bread crumbs on a plate. Using 1/8 of the shrimp mixture (about 1/3 cup), form a shrimp cake or patty with your hands. Lay the cake on the bread crumbs and press lightly so that the bread crumbs adhere to the bottom, then turn the cake over and repeat the process on the other side. Gently roll the patty's sides in the bread crumbs as well. The patty should be completely coated. Set the cake on a plate and repeat with the remaining shrimp mixture to make a total of 8 cakes.
Pour 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil into a skillet (preferably non-stick) large enough to hold 4 cakes in one layer without crowding, and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add 4 cakes. If you have a very large skillet, you can cook all 8 shrimp cakes at once, using all of the oil. Fry the cakes until they are golden on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Flip them and cook for 2 more minutes, or until they are golden all over. Repeat with the remaining 2 tablespoons oil and 4 shrimp cakes. Serve the shrimp cakes hot, with cocktail or tartar sauce, or even salsa.
Florida Style Shrimp Cakes: Reduce the msutard ti 2 teaspoons. Add the grated zest of 1 lemon and the juice of 1/2 lemon with the mayonnaise
Herbed Shrimp cakes: Omit the dill and Tobasco sauce. Toss 1 tablespoon minced parsley, 1 tablespoon minced thyme, and 1 tablespoon minced tarragon with the bread crumbs for coating the cakes.
Louisiana Style Shrimp Cakes: Core, seed, and coarsely chop 1 green or red bell pepper. Saute it with the celery and onion. Double the Tobasco sauce.
South-of-the-Border Shrimp Cakes: Omit the dill and Tobasco sauce. Seed and coarsely chop one jalapeno pepper. Add it with the mayonnaise, along with 1 teaspoon cumin and 1 teaspoon minced oregano.
Texas Style Shrimp Cakes: Substitute coarsely ground saltine crackers for the bread crumbs. Add 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce with the mayonnaise.
Recipe obtained from The Ultimate Shrimp Book by Bruce Weinstein.