Cajun Popcorn (Batter-Fried Crawfish)

This is a recipe, one of several, given to me by my friend of many years, Paul Prudhomme, the finest Creole and Cajun chef. One taste of these and you can’t stop popping the tiny deep-fried crawfish into your mouth. That shrimp-shaped critter, incidentally, is always referred to as crawfish in the South. Crayfish to a Southern ear sounds pretentious, as though you are putting on airs.

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs, well beaten
  • cups milk
  • ½ cup corn flour (see note)
  • ½ cup (all-purpose) flour
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped onion
  • 1 teaspoon finely ground white pepper
  • teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
  • teaspoon pulverized bay leaf
  • 1 cup Mayonnaise
  • Tabasco sauce
  • Oil for deep-frying
  • 2 pounds crawfish tails, peeled, or very small shrimp, peeled and deveined

Method

  1. Blend the eggs and milk; beat well.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the corn flour, all-purpose flour, sugar, salt, 1 teaspoon garlic, onion, peppers, thyme, and bay leaf. Blend well. Gradually add the milk mixture, stirring well with a whisk. Let stand 1 hour at room temperature.
  3. Combine the 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic with the mayonnaise and Tabasco to taste.
  4. Heat 1 inch of oil in a black iron skillet, or use a deep-fat fryer. It is important that the oil be heated to a temperature as close to 370 degrees as possible. Coat a few pieces of seafood with batter and drop them into the hot fat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown all over, about 2 minutes.
  5. As the coated seafood is cooked, drain well on paper towels. Continue with the remaining seafood.
  6. Serve with garlic mayonnaise on the side.

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