Spot prawns from British Columbia are on the Seafood Watch green “Best Choices” list. Their populations are healthy and abundant.
This vibrantly colored, full-flavored dish comes from Suzanne Goin’s award-winning cookbook, Sunday Suppers at Lucques: Seasonal Recipes from Market to Table. “Serve the spot prawns with salt and lemon and a big hunk of crusty bread,” she advises. “This is a messy feast, so choose guests who will enjoy participating in a primal feeding frenzy.” If you can’t find spot prawns, use any sustainable fresh prawns or large shrimp sold in their shells.
- (Serves 6)
- 24 large prawns* (about 4 ½ pounds)
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 1 1/2 cups sliced shallots
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon thinly sliced chile de árbol
- 1/2 cup sliced garlic
- 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 1/2 pints cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- Yellow tomato confit (recipe below)
- 1/4 cup sliced flat-leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- 2 tablespoons sliced green basil
- 2 tablespoons sliced opal basil
- 1 lemon, for juicing
Use kitchen scissors to cut the shells of the spot prawns down their backs, from the base of their heads to the tips of their tails. (Don’t remove the shells.) If the prawns are wet, dry them with paper towels.
Heat two heavy-bottomed sauté pans over high heat for 3 to 4 minutes. (You will need to cook the prawns in batches to avoid overcrowding them.) Swirl 2 tablespoons of olive oil into each pan, and carefully place the prawns in the pans, on their sides.
Season each batch of prawns with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Pour another 2 tablespoons of oil into each pan, and cook about 5 minutes, until the shells get some color and the flesh begins to turn opaque on the first side.
Turn the prawns over, drizzle another 2 tablespoons of oil into each pan, and season the second side of each batch with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Cook another 3 minutes or so, until the prawns are just cooked. (You can peek inside the cut shell to see that the flesh is completely opaque.)
Remove the prawns to a platter and turn the heat under both pans down to medium-low. Divide the shallots, thyme, and sliced chiles between the two pans. Season each pan with 1/4 teaspoon salt and some pepper.
Cook 2 minutes, until the shallots are translucent, scraping the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the flavorful shrimp bits. Divide the garlic between the pans and cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring often, until the shallots and garlic are soft and just starting to color.
Turn the heat back up to high and add half the cherry tomatoes, 1/2 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper to each pan. Taste for seasoning and cook a minute, stirring often.
Add half the prawns, sliced parsley, oregano and the two basils to each pan and roll the prawns in the cherry tomatoes to coat well. This final step really helps coat the prawns in the cherry tomato sauce.
Spoon the hot yellow tomato confit onto a large warm platter.
Arrange the prawns on the platter and squeeze a generous amount of lemon juice over them. Spoon the remaining cherry tomato sauce over the top.
Serve with lots of crusty bread for sopping up the sauce and juices.
* Other sustainable shrimp or prawns may be substituted.
YELLOW TOMATO CONFIT RECIPE
- (Serves 6)
- 1/2 cup sliced red onion
- 2 dried chiles de árbol broken in half with your hands
- 1 tablespoon sliced garlic
- 2 sprigs basil
- 2 sprigs oregano
- 1 1/2 pounds yellow tomatoes
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Yellow Tomato Confit Directions
Preheat the oven to 400º F.
Scatter the red onion, chiles, garlic, and basil and oregano sprigs in a baking dish. Core the yellow tomatoes and place them, stem side down, on top of the onions. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons salt and pour the olive oil and 1 cup water over the tomatoes.
Note: The tomatoes should fit snugly in the baking dish in one even layer. If there is too much room in the pan, the sauce will be thin and lose some of its intensity.
Cook the tomatoes in the oven for about 50 minutes, until they soften and blister. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool 10 minutes.
Strain the tomatoes and onions over a bowl, saving the juice. Discard the herbs and half the chiles.
Hints from the Chef
- The spot prawns should be cleaned right before they’re cooked and not any earlier.
- Get in there and eat with your hands—peel open those shrimps and suck on them!
- The prawns would also be great with steamed rice or over pasta.