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~ Cajun-Creole Corn-Meal-Crusted Popcorn Shrimp ~

IMG_5196I've popped so much corn this week, my kitchen has taken on the enticing aroma of a movie theatre.  To my husband's childlike glee, on Monday I posted my recipe for ~ My Caramel Corn vs. Cracker Jack?  No Contest. ~, and, on Wednesday, ~ Say Cheese!  Buttery Cheddar Cheese Popcorn!!! ~.  One is sweet, one is savory, both are addictive.  You can find both of these recipes in Categories 2, 17 & 20, or, by clicking on the Related Article links below.  We've celebrated by watching some great movies on-demand too:  Zero Dark Thirty on Monday, and Lincoln on Wednesday.  Tonight, we're watching Hyde Park on the Hudson, and, I'm making a completely different kind of popcorn for our Friday night movie:  popcorn shrimp!

A bit about popcorn shrimp:  If you've never eaten popcorn shrimp, you're in for a treat.  It's basically bite-sized shrimp that have been breaded and deep-fried, meaning:  small shrimp are used to mimic the look of popped corn kernels.  It's said to have originated in the Cajun South (although, Red Lobster claims that two of their employees invented them).  It just so happens that New Orleans is where I had the pleasure of first experiencing popcorn shrimp, and it wasn't at a Red Lobster, so, I'm sticking with that story.  It also makes logical sense that with the voluminous shrimping industry in NOLA, these innovative folks would have come up with a deliciously spicy way to serve the shrimpy shrimp that are the hardest to market.  It consists of three main ingredients:  shrimp and a breading of some sort, plus Cajun or Creole seasoning! 

Cajun?  Creole?  Somewhere in between?

Fact:  Cajun = country-style.  Creole = city-style.

Fiction:  Cajun cuisine is spicier than Creole cuisine.  

6a0120a8551282970b015434a7fbbe970c-800wiA bit about Cajun and Creole cuisines:  Cajun cooking, has come to imply a simple, rustic, country-style of cooking that was born out of the necessity of peasants and represents a combination of French and Southen fare.  Creole cooking has come to imply the more refined, sophisticated style of city dwellers, was born out of resturant chefs and combines the best of French, Spanish and African cuisines.  

Cajun cooks tend to use copius amounts of  inexpensive pork fat along with anything they can hunt or trap or harvest from the swamps and bayous.  Creole cooks, who are supplied by the commerce of the ports, place more emphasis on rich butter, cream and eggs.  Cajun food tends to be one-pot stew-like meals, often prepared in a single cast-iron pot.  Creole food is more elegant and requires two or three vessels to prepare the meal.   Both cuisines rely heavily upon the "holy trinity" (chopped onion, celery and green bell pepper) and rice, however, Cajun food is based on inexpensive additions and plain looking, while Creole food is based on more exotic ingredients and is quite flamboyant.  When it comes to spice, they both use the same spices, in quantities determined by how spicy the food is supposed to be.  What it all boils down to:

"Cajuns eat in the kitchen and Creoles eat in the dining room!" ~ Chef John D. Folse

(You can find ~ JoePa's Easy Cajun-Creole Seafood Jambalaya ~ in Categories 3, 14 or 20!)

6a0120a8551282970b016301cbc9d4970d-320wiFor the Shrimp:

2  pounds medium (51-60 count) shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails off

1  cup yellow corn meal (masa)

1  cup all-purpose flour

3  tablespoons Cajun seasoning 

1  teaspoon sea salt

1  cup Creole mustard

3/4  cup water

peanut or corn oil, for deep frying

freshly ground sea salt

Note:  One of the biggest complaints I have about some restaurant versions of popcorn shrimp is they have so much breading you can't taste the shrimp.  The day I stopped using small (100 count) shrimp and experimented with the next size up, medium shrimp, that problem was solved. The best popcorn shrimp have a light, crispy, flavorful coating.  The day I stopped using breadcrumbs and started using corn meal, my heart went pitter-pat and I never looked back. Lastly, for best results, do not make them in advance.  Dip, dredge, fry, salt and eat immediately!

6a0120a8551282970b0168e7c30562970c-320wi~ Step 1.  Preheat the oil in a deep-fryer to 360 degrees.

~ Step 2.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, corn meal, Cajun seasoning and salt.

6a0120a8551282970b016762c217ae970b-320wi~ Step 3.  In a second large bowl, whisk the mustard and water, to a pancake-batter-like consistency.

IMG_5165~ Step 4. Using a large spoon or spatula, fold all of the shrimp into the mustard/water mixture, until the shrimp are thoroughly coated.

IMG_5168~ Step 5. Working in batches of 18-24, dredge shrimp in the cornmeal mixture and shake off any excess.

IMG_5183~ Step 6.  Working as quickly as you can, carefully place 3-4 shrimp at a time into the basket of the the deep-fryer until 18-24 shrimp have been added.  Deep-fry for 1 1/2 minutes, until golden on the outside and tender on the inside.

Transfer to a 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish that has been lined with paper towels.  Lightly sprinkle each batch with sea salt the moment they get placed in the dish.  Repeat this process until all shrimp are fried:

IMG_5232Cajun-Creole Corn-Meal-Crusted Popcorn Shrimp:  Recipe yields 100-120 popcorn shrimp, or, 8 servings of 12-15 shrimp per person.

Special Equipment List:  deep-fryer; whisk; large spoon or spatula; 13" x 9" x 2" baking dish; paper towels

6a0120a8551282970b013486a70751970c-320wiCook's Note:  I serve these with ~ Melanie's Sweet 'n Spicy Wing 'n Thing Sauce ~ for dipping or drizzling.

It is a 2:1 ratio of (for example):

1  cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce

1/2 cup Honey

stirred together and heated on the stovetop just until warm, for about 45-60 seconds.

You can find the recipe in Categories 2, 8, 17 or 20!

6a0120a8551282970b016762c4cb9c970b-800wiExtra Cook's Note:  So, you loved my popcorn shrimp and the spicy honey sauce.  Now, imagine those shrimp served on a sandwich.  The one and only:  ~ Lousianna's Famous Po' Boy Sandwich ~.  You can find my recipe, along with the recipe for its classic condiment, remoulade sauce, in Categories 2, 11 or 14!

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Prescutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2013) 


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