Chef Chris Shepherd's popcorn shrimp is like movie theater popcorn at its best. To imitate the buttery flavor, he makes a sauce with fresh corn, a touch of cream and Butter Buds, which are store-bought, butter-flavored granules.
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4 ears of corn—kernels cut off and reserved, cobs reserved
1/2 onion, quartered
1 garlic clove, crushed
6 cups water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon cornstarch mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons Butter Buds (about 2 1/2 ounces; see Note)
Freshly ground pepper
1 cup rice flour
1 large egg
1/2 cup whole milk
1 pound shelled and deveined small shrimp
Vegetable oil, for frying
Snipped chives and lime wedges, for serving
How to Make It
In a large saucepan, combine the corn cobs with the onion, garlic and water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the broth is well-flavored and reduced to about 2 cups, about 40 minutes. Strain the broth into a heatproof bowl, discarding the solids.
Return the broth to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat until reduced to 1 cup, 7 to 10 minutes. Add the corn kernels and heavy cream and bring just to a boil, then stir in the cornstarch mixture and simmer over moderate heat until thickened, about 3 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a blender and puree until smooth. Strain the puree through a medium sieve set over a bowl. Stir in the Butter Buds and season the sauce with salt and pepper; keep warm.
Set a rack over a baking sheet. Put the rice flour in a pie plate. In another pie plate, beat the egg with the milk. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and dust them in the rice flour, tapping off the excess. Dip the dusted shrimp in the egg, then dredge again in the flour; transfer to the rack.
In a large saucepan, heat 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil to 350°. Add half of the shrimp to the oil and fry until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the shrimp to a paper towel–lined baking sheet and season lightly with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining shrimp.
Transfer the shrimp to a platter and garnish with chives and lime wedges. Spoon the sauce into a bowl and serve right away.
Butter Buds are butter-flavored granules. They’re available in supermarkets.
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