It should be noted that while I prefer my prawns cooked in various ways, I would trust a sushi master to feed me uncooked ones without (as my Oz friend and colleague John taught me in grad school would be a less kindly gesture) either giving me or coming the proverbial ‘raw prawn‘. Old-school colloquialisms aside, it can be a great kindness to feed me well prepared prawns in a number of guises, as they’re not only tasty protein sources but well respected in a number of the world’s great cuisines. I’ve had the good fortune to live and/or vacation in a few places noted for particular kinds of prawns and shrimp, and when they’re ‘done up right’ I would be hard pressed to resist them as a top choice for eating.
In their compact and sturdy form they do lend themselves to skewering and grilling or to the great dive-in-and-get-messy kind of eating in a traditional Shrimp Boil or rekefest (the classic Cajun and Norwegian shrimp-eating parties, respectively), and I’ve certainly been served spectacular ones whole in dreamlike paellas, gumbos, cioppinos and other dishes. No complaints here! But when it comes to fixing things myself, I’m more inclined to think my fellow diners might like to be as lazy as I am, given the chance, and prefer most often to peel and devein shrimp and prawns before using them in my cooking. There’s no reason not to use the shells then and there for cooking up in a great batch of broth, of course, so I don’t see the necessity of wasting them, but I love to be able to eat meals unencumbered by the slowing process of dressing out the food unless it’s really a necessary part of the experience. Once the critters are cleaned, the meal prep is just as easy anyway, and if broth is on hand as a result, it’s the perfect base for an enriched soup or sauce in the bargain.
So what do I use these splendid shellfish for, finally? Nearly anything is good with such a sweet, clean taste and firm yet delicate texture. Shrimp puree, as I’ve mentioned before, is a fantastic binder for fish cakes because they don’t dull down the flavor like a starch binder (flour or crumbs, typically) would do, and though I haven’t tested it yet I’m certain it’d make a grand seafood soup or sauce thickener as well. But beautiful prawns deserve respect, too, in their unadulterated-yet-naked form, so they feature in a wide variety of dishes chez moi in addition to the aforementioned international classic presentations.
Curries probably top the list hereabouts, mainly because both members of the household are fans of curry in a wide range of styles. Many classic Indian and Indian-influenced sauces and dishes, in fact, lend themselves beautifully to showcasing shrimp: butter sauce, mainly seen on American plates napping chicken, is one marvelous option, as are Tandoori-spiced grilling on a skewer, prawns biryani, and prawns simply seared in ghee and garam masala and served with fragrant rice.
Italian cooks, too, have given us a multitude of glorious ways to honor the delicious beauty of these shellfish, not least of all in a beautiful marinara sauce over pasta. If you want any advice or inspiration whatsoever regarding Italian cookery, you can’t do better than to visit my friend Chicago John over at his blog From the Bartolini Kitchens, and you can do your own happy swimming through all of his shrimp- and prawn-related dishes with a quick search there. But despite my reverence for John’s glorious and historically rich cookery, I have been known to dabble in my own variants at times, and think I didn’t do too much harm to the image of the Real Thing. One example of this would be when I make my version of prawns Fra Diavolo, which according to Signore Mario Batali is Italian-American anyway, so I have no compunction about further stretching the idea. For mine, I make a sauce of tomato passata with shallots, a splash of a nice, intense red wine if I’ve got one open, a squeeze of lemon juice, a good grind of black pepper, oregano, basil, and a hit of red pepper flakes, varying the amounts to the tastes of my fellow diners, and finally, warm the prawns in the sauce just until they’re pink and curling like a charming devil’s tail.You who love shellfish equally will know that I could go on rhapsodizing about them and the many ways in which to dress them up and swallow them down, but for now I think that that should be the end of this tale.
I am right there with you – prawns and shrimps in all kinds and forms are excellent. This post makes me hungry and wanting all the different varieties. In the end of the day, though, I still prefer newly cooked Norwegian shrimps peeled right there and then, without anything else. My mouth is already watering…
Understandable! Nothing beats a good rekefest!!! Though I do love mine cold and piled on thickly buttered loff with a squeeze of lemon juice, no matter how I eat it, I’m glad for those delicious “bugs”!
Lovely post, Kathryn. I made my own version of butter chicken tonight and I’ll be picking up some prawns to add to the leftovers. There isn’t a lot of chicken left but lots of yummy sauce. Thanks for the inspiration!
They turn out to be great friends, the prawns and butter sauce! Hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. 😀
Love the punch line! Prawns are sublime when cooked correctly for sure 🙂
Nothing like a good (bad) pun. 😉 Yes, I’ve seen some wildly tasty looking prawn-related treats around your blog at times, if I’m not mistaken! 😀
I love all sorts of prawns and shrimps 😀 The butter prawns look so delicious!
No complaints here! 🙂
Prawnicous I say, love them
So much better than being Pernicious! Though I might admit to having a persistently pernicious craving for prawnliciouness from time to time! 😀
Rhapsodise away. Love prawns in anything, but I have been trying to wean myself off them unless they’ve been sustainably sourced.
We’re fortunate in having a couple of reliable places here that certify their seafoods as sustainable. I strongly suspect that about half of your recipes are prawn-friendly, even if they’re not conceived for prawns originally (especially given all of your great curries and southeast Asian influences!!). Sooooo tasty.
Prawns, glorious and scrumptious, prawns!
🙂 Mandy xo
That sounds like it should be a song!! 😀
Butter and prawns would be a most formidable combination, me thinks! 🙂
Butter is certainly one of those foods I consider a Universal Donor. I can pretty much eat it plain, when it’s sweet and fresh, I love it so. And prawns are about as close to universal as you could get, when it comes to use in seafood dishes, so they clearly are meant to be friends!! 🙂
I love prawns but not bay shrimp. lol. I especially love prawns in SF’s Cioppino!
I have only two particular bay shrimp weaknesses: the unbelievably sweet super-fresh ones piled on a sweet-honey-mustard dressed green salad (must be old-school bold greens like combined Romaine and iceberg) is a once-in-a-while great treat, and the rest of the time, grinding or pureeing the little fellers makes them the absolutely perfect binder for fishcakes! But ohhhhhh, SF Cioppino! Now I AM hungry!!!
I love fishcakes too. 🙂 Thank goodness I’m having lunch right now!
Isn’t it *always* lunchtime?? That’s how *I* do it. 😉
I do not eat shellfish, but this dish sounds lovely, Kathryn! 🙂
The butter prawn version is easily adaptable—and pretty classic in an Indian influenced dish—with tofu and/or potatoes, and Fra Diavolo, despite his naughty name, is very friendly with all sorts of vegetables, perhaps especially ones roasted or grilled with a little zip of lemon or orange juice. 😀
That sounds lovely, Kathryn. I love a versatile and flavorful dish! 🙂 Thank you for the great tips!
I’m glad you didn’t get a raw deal, bit it sounds like you’re still a prawn of fate. I hope that doesn’t mean your goose is cooked.
Hope not, for I am the avatar of Silly Geese.
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