How to Make Popcorn Shrimp


Nobody seems to know where or how popcorn shrimp originated, but it's generally agreed upon that it happened in Cajun country. The spicing and deep frying of these addictive, bite-size shrimp nuggets supports that. The practicality of most Cajun cooking makes it likely that these were the shrimp that were broken or too small to sell and so came home to become supper for the fisherman's family.
Simple and inexpensive to fix, there's no need to go to a restaurant and pay someone else to make popcorn shrimp for you. Be Cajun for a day. Have some friends over, fix yourself some shrimp, pop a few beers and relax on the front porch while the world hurries on without you. Let the good times roll.

Things You'll Need

  • Small, raw, shelled shrimp (90-110 count)
  • Oil for deep frying
  • Pot for deep frying
  • Three large, slotted spoons
  • Cookie sheet or large cooling rack
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp. onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups plain breadcrumbs
  • Paper towels or newspapers
  • Tartar sauce, cocktail sauce, ketchup or your choice
  • Three beers (optional, but traditional)
  • Allow at least 1/4 lb. shrimp per serving, more if y'all are relaxed and hungry. Rinse the shrimp and pat dry. Smile at them and open a beer.

  • Combine the seasonings and divide in half. Add half to the flour and half to the bread crumbs. Put each in a separate bowl. Beat eggs thoroughly in another bowl. Drink a toast to Louisiana chef and humorist Justin Wilson with about half of the first beer.

  • Place shrimp to one side, then the bowl of flour, the bowl of beaten eggs and then the bowl of bread crumbs. Have the cookie sheet sitting next to the bread crumbs. Place one slotted spoon in front of each bowl. Put on some zydeco music and take a few more sips of beer.

  • Pour enough oil into your pan to come up to almost 3 inches deep. Turn the heat to medium and heat oil while you do Step 5. Heat your oil to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Finish the first beer and open the second. Place it well away from the hot oil. Dance briefly around the kitchen.

  • Take about 1/4 cup of shrimp and drop into flour. Coat thoroughly, then lift out with first spoon. Transfer the floured shrimp to the egg bowl. Coat thoroughly, then lift out with second spoon. Move the eggy shrimp to the breadcrumbs and stir well. Lift the breadcrumb-covered shrimp out with the third spoon, then transfer to the pan or rack. Do this two or three times, then drink some of the second beer. Continue until all shrimp are coated. This is the hard part, so don't let anyone see that you're actually having fun.

  • Use first spoon to transfer a spoonful of shrimp at a time to the hot oil. Cook shrimp until golden brown and crispy. Shrimp will float when they are done. Fry about a cup of shrimp at a time, more if the pan doesn't seem crowded. Add a few at a time so the oil temperature doesn't drop too fast. Stir occasionally while frying. They should be cooked in a few minutes. You'll know by taste testing some out of each batch. Let them cool so you don't burn your mouth.

  • Remove cooked shrimp from oil and allow to drain on paper towels or newspaper. Finish second beer as soon as all shrimp are underway. Salt the shrimp lightly as soon as they come out of the fryer. Servewhile hot with sauce of your choice, or no sauce at all. Finish your beer, if you haven't already. Open the third beer, toast the shrimp and go collect compliments.

Tips & Warnings

  • Substitute a half-cup of cornmeal for the breadcrumbs and lightly combine all other coating ingredients in a large bowl. Add a beer and, again, mix lightly. Allow this batter to sit for one hour. Pour all the shrimp into the batter, then retrieve a spoonful at a time and place in fryer after draining the excess batter. Follow the rest of the directions just the same. Vary the seasonings according to your taste. Suit yourself in measuring the cayenne. Your oil won't stay at a constant 375 degrees once you've started adding food. Aim for about 360 degrees during the frying process.
  • Always observe normal precautions when deep frying. Watch the heat under the pan and keep the temperature as constant as possible.

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