So 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.
The 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.