Cajun Popcorn with Garlic Mayonnaise

CAJUN POPCORN, ORIGINALLY POPULARIZED IN THE 1980s by chef Paul Prudhomme at K-Paul’s Louisiana Kitchen in New Orleans, has to be one of the greatest innovations in modern Southern cookery and the ideal food for stylish cocktail parties. Since Paul served the crawfish with a thick sherry wine sauce at the restaurant, I have no idea how the garlic mayonnaise dip evolved; but today this seems to be the classic dip for the dish. The key to this spicy popcorn is to fry the crawfish as crispy as possible, so by no means should the temperature of the oil drop below 350°F. Crawfish tails can now be found frozen in better markets, but if they’re unavailable, small fresh shrimp can be substituted with equal success. Be warned that this popcorn becomes soggy and lifeless when allowed to cool, so make every effort to serve it immediately after frying. 1 cup mayonnaise 1 garlic clove, minced Tabasco sauce to taste 2 large eggs, beaten 11⁄4 cups milk 1 cup all-purpose flour 1 teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1⁄2 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1⁄2 teaspoon garlic powder 1⁄2 teaspoon onion powder 1⁄4 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled 1⁄8 teaspoon dried basil, crumbled Vegetable oil for frying 2 pounds crawfish tails or small shrimp, peeled and deveined In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, garlic, and Tabasco, stir till well blended, and set aside. In another small bowl, combine the eggs and milk and whisk till well blended. In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, two peppers, garlic powder, onion powder, thyme, and basil and mix well. Gradually whisk in the egg mixture till well blended and let the batter stand 1 hour. In a large, heavy skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat 1 inch of oil to about 370°F (but not below 350°F) on a deep-fat thermometer. In batches, coat the seafood with the batter, fry in the hot oil, stirring, about 2 minutes or till golden and crisp, and drain on paper towels. Serve the popcorn hot with the garlic mayonnaise.

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