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Popeye’s debuts Zatarain’s Butterfly Shrimp

popeyes1So last week I got myself a big, fat invite to the Popeye’s Louisiana Kitchen headquarters to get an advance look at a new menu item called Zatarain’s Butterfly Shrimp. The product debuted yesterday and will be offered for a limited time only.

What do we have here? Eight shrimp in a thick cornmeal batter flavored with custom Zatarain’s  seasonings. You also get french fries, a biscuit and a little tub of lemon-garlic sauce that tasted to me like the bastard child of Italian and ranch dressings. It costs $4.99.

popeyes2The shrimp themselves are 51-60 count pond-raised specimens from South America, China and the West Coast. Like much shellfish, they have been lightly treated with sodium tripolyphosphate to increase their size and alter their texture. They come peeled and deveined (unlike Popeye’s butterfly shrimp), with the tail still attached. Scrape away the batter, and you won’t mind what you see.

I personally found these shrimp nicely spicy and way too salty, much like I find Popeye’s chicken.

It was a fun afternoon, though. Amy Alarcon, the director of culinary innovation at Popeye’s, led a tasting of other products that are currently under development. About eight or ten of us sat around a semi-circular conference table as a guy  in a spotless white chef’s jacket brought us meal after meal.

We tried a crab dip that may make an appearance alongside popcorn shrimp or in a po’ boy sandwich, a “blackened tartare sauce” that was more of a ruddy orange and a very yummy fried pie filled with blackberry goo and cream cheese.

21 comments Add your comment

Bub

June 26th, 2012
2:04 pm

I’m glad you are not too snooty to attend and report on things like this. Entertaining. Fine dining is great, but, hey most of the world hits Popeye’s more than it does a French bistro (yeah, I know that’s cliche).

Mr. Josh H

June 26th, 2012
2:04 pm

Kissler,

If you’re going to go beyond taste and talk about the way these shrimp are produced and processed, you should also talk about the devastating environmental impact farm-raised shrimp and other aquaculture has in developing countries.

(http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/cr_seafoodwatch/issues/aquaculture_habitatdamage.aspx)

New Orleans can take its Aints fans back

June 26th, 2012
2:06 pm

But Popeye’s can stay.

Sheldon Plankton

June 26th, 2012
2:13 pm

I can’t imagine getting shrimp in a fast food joint that is not peeled and deveined.

nola

June 26th, 2012
2:19 pm

Interesting that they’ve contracted with Zatarain’s since for so long they’ve used Al Copeland’s original spices/recipes for the chicken. I wonder if this signals a move away from Copeland (who used to own Popeye’s, of course).

John Kessler

June 26th, 2012
2:23 pm

Sheldon – Popeye’s served us some popcorn shrimp on the visit. None of them were deveined. I assume that’s the standard…

Kar

June 26th, 2012
2:23 pm

Screw how the shrimp are raised and treated, I’m more concerned with who harvested them, if they’re of age, IF THEY GOT PAID, and if they had humane treatment.

John, my guess is that you probably saw the prettiest shrimp to ever come out of any Popeye’s kitchen. Always curious how the place down the street pulls them off too. If they’ll be as pretty and plump.

John Kessler

June 26th, 2012
3:05 pm

Interesting point, Nola.
I did like the fries. When I asked Amy Alarcon what I was tasting in the coating, she said a little Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce. I immediately recognized the flavor….

Billie

June 26th, 2012
4:01 pm

Sheldon P. (yeah, I get it): I’ve never seen a fast-food joint that was peeled and deveined. Would like to; got an address?

Jimmy

June 26th, 2012
5:28 pm

We have had a total of three Pop eye chicken restaurants located in Lagrange Georgia in the past ten years and all have closed.The only KFC we had recently closed.There was nothing wrong with the food and no shortage of customers.The quality of the employees and poor customer service killed them.We also lost the Sonic,Golden Corral,and a couple of Hardee’s during the same time frame and for the same reason.If you don’t have trained employees and good managers you won’t survive in todays market.

Gwinnett Mom

June 26th, 2012
7:24 pm

Hey Jhon when does the McRib return? My husband and boys really luv it.

Rob

June 26th, 2012
9:00 pm

So, was Annie the Chicken Queen there? I mean after all, it is HER chicken.

reprob8incarn8

June 26th, 2012
11:12 pm

Zatarain’s Butterfly Shrimp??? There will be more sodium than shrimp!

mobebetter

June 26th, 2012
11:58 pm

Love me some SHIRMPS!

Baltisraul

June 27th, 2012
7:08 am

Jimmy……..you sure said a mouthful.

M. Johnson

June 27th, 2012
9:07 am

I’m with you on the salt factor at Popeye’s and typically go for the sides first. Their dirty rice and red beans and rice sides are sooo yummy.

But here’s what disturbs me most:
Like much shellfish, they have been lightly treated with sodium tripolyphosphate to increase their size and alter their texture.

Thanks for teaching me something new about our food and scary ingredients hiding in plain site. Never heard of this chemical being used on shrimp. What can consumers do to get the truth about what’s in our food? This is kind of scary.

Grasshopper

June 27th, 2012
9:44 am

I find that almost all chain restaurants use way too much salt on almost everything. What do you imagine they are trying to mask?

That being said, Popeye’s spicy chicken is mouth-watering to me. I think it’s because it is not so heavily breaded that you don’t feel like you have to chew through a layer of crunchy fried dough to get to the meat. I’ll give these shrimps a shot if I get to a Popeye’s before they are retired.

N-GA

June 27th, 2012
11:57 am

Is “sodium tripolyphosphate” the next pink slime?

John Kessler

June 27th, 2012
12:32 pm

M. Johnson – Sodium tripolyphosphate has a GRAS (generally recognized as safe) designation from the FDA. Of this particular chemical agent, the FDA concludes, “There is no evidence in the available information on [substance] that demonstrates, or suggests reasonable grounds to suspect, a hazard to the public when they are used at levels that are now current or might reasonably be expected in the future.”
So…should be fine.
Tripoly is used a lot in the packaging of scallops. You know how sometimes they’re firm and meaty, and sometimes they give off a lot of liquid when you try and sear them? That’s why.

M. Johnson

June 27th, 2012
1:40 pm

Yummy.

Thanks for the clarification. Given the choice, I would be fine with ugly, chemical-free scallops and shrimp.

Ned Ludd

June 27th, 2012
2:36 pm

SODIUM Tripoly…. Sodium? Salt? Nothing like adding more salt to an already oversalted item. A major concern in all fast food. Salt it and they will buy….