Thursday, May 31, 2007

Summer Fling With Santa Barbara Spot Prawns

spot prawn

I've had my Suzanne Goin's Sunday Supper at Lucques cookbook for a good six months now and I've rarely used this guide to Goin's "perfect calibration of good cooking and atmosphere of joie de vivre." Goin's call for organic, local, and in season ingredients is so refreshing and comforting, especially in these summer months.

Well, while summer's here and Dylan's been working hard over at his ad agency, I thought it'd be the perfect weekend to cook for my man and try Goin's recipe for Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Tomato Confit, Garlic and Chile, which immediately caught my eye while sifting through her book for our Friday night affair.

Finding Spot Prawns
I thought I'd have a hard time finding these beautiful sun-ripened apricot colored prawns. I was so close to spending a good $30/lb at Whole Foods. But before going to Whole Foods, I made a quick search on Chowhound seeing if there were any other more reasonable purveyors.

99 RANCH...I should have known. For any of you looking for seafood, check out 99 Ranch before heading to any high end market. We ended up finding LIVE Spot Prawns for a mere $12.99/lb.

spot prawn head

D and I had a little too much fun playing with our new arrival of ocean critters. The color and shells on these spot prawns are just so beautiful. And the meat of a spot prawn, it's so much softer than regular shrimp. They truly have royal status in the prawn kingdom.

prawn bowl

With tomatoes and spot prawns in season, this is the perfect dish to celebrate the love of summer meals with friends. Because the recipe calls for the prawns to be served in-shell and with the heads on, I'd highly advise choosing guests who are comfortable with primitive table manners.

spot prawn in yellow tomato confit

Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with Tomato Confit, garlic, and chile
16 large spot prawns (2 pounds)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups slided shallots (about 2 shallots)
1 tablespoon thyme leaves (5-6 sprigs)
1 tablespoon thinly sliced chile de arbol
1/2 cup sliced garlic
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 tablespoon sliced green basil
2 tablespoon sliced opal basil
1 lemon, for juicing

Use kitchen scissors to cut the shells of the spot prawns down their backs from their tails to the middle of their bodies. (Goin's suggest cutting all the way to the base of their head, but I'd keep it closed half way, to seal in more prawn juice.) Cutting the backs of the shrimp will make it easier to the peel the shrimp so you and your guests don't have to gnaw your way to the prawn meat.

Heat a sautè pan over high heat for 3-4 minutes. Swirl 2 tablespoons of olive oil into each pan, and place the prawns on their sides. (Cook the prawns in batches of 3-4 at a time.) Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 5 minutes, until the shells get some color and the flesh begins to turn opaque on the first side. Turn over and drizzle another 2 tablespoons of olive oil into the pan and season the other side with salt and pepper. Cook for another 3 minutes until the prawns are cooked.

Remove the prawns from the pan, and repeat until you finish cooking all prawns. Keep the wondrous prawn juice in the pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Add shallots, thyme, and sliced chiles to the pan. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the shallots are transluscent (about 2 minutes). Make sure to scrape the pan with a wooden spoon to release all the flavorful shrimp bits. Add garlic and cook until the shallots and garlic are soft. Turn the heat back up to high. Add cherry tomatoes, salt and a lot of ground pepper. Cook until the cherry tomatoes are soft.

Add prawns, sliced parsley, oregeno, and basils into the the cherry tomato mix. Make sure the prawns roll around in the mix.

Spoon hot yellow tomato confit (see recipe below) into 4-6 bowls. Arrange prawns in the bowl of confit. Spoon the remaining cherry tomato sauce over the top. Served with a lot of warm sliced baquettes to sop up the sauce and juices.

Yellow Tomato Confit
The confit can be made the night before. Make sure you tuck in the tomatoes so they are snug... and sing them a song before they undergo the 400 degree heat. If there is too much room in the pan, the sauce will be thin and it will lose some of its intensity.
1/2 cup sliced red onion (1/2 red onion)
2 dried chiles de arbol, broken in half with hands
1 tablespoon sliced garlic
2 sprigs basil
2 sprigs oregano
1 1/2 pounds yellow and orange tomatoes
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salkt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Scatter the red onions, chiles, garlic, basil and oregano in a baking dish. Core the yellow and orange tomatoes and place them (dome down) on top of the onions. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons of kosher salt and pour the olive oil and 1 cup of water over the tomatoes. Again, make sure the tomatoes are snug.

Cook the tomatoes in the oven for about 50 minutes. The tomatoes should be soft and blistered. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 1o minutes. Strain the tomatoes and ovens over a bowl. Remove the herbs.

Transfer 1/2 the tomatoes and 1/2 the oil juice into the blender. Puree until the tomatoes are pureed. Pour in more liquid, a little at a time, until the tomato confit is the consistency of heavy cream. Turn the speed up and blend for about a minute. Repeat with the second half of the tomatoes. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and some pepper.

prawn feast

Here's our Santa Barbara Spot Prawn feast in action. We later collected the decapitated prawn heads in a bowl and D tempura battered and fried the crap out of them. Our invited neighbors were then fois gras force fed to eat the heads as part of the dinner. I overheard my friend say, "Man, these people are hard core. There's no f*cking around here." That's right, there's no f*cking around when you eat with two obsessed foodbloggers. Unfortunately, the shells were a bit hard to eat for furai-atamaebi's (fried shrimp heads), but we still loved them. MMMM...Santa Barbara spot prawn brain. Who wants an invite???

We suggest a crisp German Riesling Kabinett for the meal. The clean crispness in the Reisling really helps break up the creaminess in the confit and accentuate the slight spiciness from the chile de arbol.

sweet corn soup with avocado mousse and cilantro

Dylan loves corn and we're loving the fresh corn offered at the Echo Park Farmers' Market, so I decided Goin's Sweet Corn Soup with Avocado Cream and Cilantro would be a great starter soup for our summer meal with the spot prawns. I served it warm, but I think serving the corn soup cold would be a lot more refreshing. I'd also add whole kernals to give the soup more texture.

applewood bacon mushroom tart

If there's anything we need to master from Goin's Sunday Supper cookbook, it would have to be her savory tarts. Once you master the creamy ricotta & creme fraiche base, the combinations to this tart are unstoppable. I sauteed leeks with garlic and mushrooms then added some lightly crisped applewood-smoked bacon. Dylan and our guests loved it. Just make sure not to forget to juice it with lemon before serving. The ricotta, creme fraiche and gruyere can be a bit overwhelming. The lemon juice really breaks up the creaminess AND gives it a fresh kick.

cornmeal shortbread

The end of our meal came at some freshly baked Cornmeal Shortcakes with Apricots, Mint and Soured Mascarpone. I loved the soured mascarpone and the mascerated apricots. And I was really looking forward to the cornmeal shortcakes, but they just seemed a bit too dry and heavy and just didn't belong to the fresh cream and apricots. Oh well. Good thing my man doesn't eat desserts. No points lost here.

I scored some major points with Dylan (our relationship is constantly measured by points...poor Dylan is usually losing points) with the dinner. A majority of the points came from the choice of spot prawns. They are so freegin' hot. A must have for this summer.



Daily Gluttony said...

gawddamn girl, that is some gorgeous looking food!

i love my sunday suppers at lucques cookbook, though i have to admit that i've only cooked 2 recipes from it since i'm so lazy.

Mary said...

Hi Jeni! How are you? I love your baby picture. So, good news: I PASSSED MY INQUIRY!! Now it's just finishing up the school year. 16 days left. I can't wait for the summer. Also, time to update the blog! We're going to have to meet up when you're freeeeee- when we're both free. woohoo, summer!

Marvin said...

Wow, that is hardcore. What is D's recipe for tempura? Rice flour and water, or is there more to it?

eatdrinknbmerry said...

Marvin, it's just one of those tempura batter boxes... added water and mixed. the key is to keep the tempura batter SUPER COLD... so if you can put a bowl of ice under your mixing bowl... youll get a nice & crisp result. the prawn heads were quite thick since they are 8-12 per lb shrimp. it was quite hard to chew, but very tasty.

j, thank you again for the lovely dinner. you really put a lot of time and heart into it. it was awesome.

jee in the city said...

looks delicioso!!! I LOVE seafood..

jsunu said...

wow. excuse me while i go and find a kleenex to wipe off the drool on my face. looks fantastic! love love love the fried shrimp heads!

themirthmobile said...

wow, everything looks fantastic! thank god my schedule changes soon so i can finally get home to check out the EP market before it closes, thanks for the reminder.

Passionate Eater said...

Those are the freshest prawns I have seen in my life. The red color is so vivid and gorgeous! I gotta make me a trip to Santa Barbara, even if it is just to pick up prawns like those.

Jeni said...

USE it DG! I love her...I love her cookbook!

Congratulations Mary!!! You'll be graduating next week too...yaaaay! You have to treat yourself to a good meal..promise me that!

Spot Prawn tempura heads..hardcore. But when it comes to the batter...we just used some tempura batter that we had in our cupboard. Gotto find shortcuts sometimes!

EDNBM..I don't know how you cook without stressing out! Just make sure I have my wine next to me next time...syrah is my stress relief. should definitely check out Crab Fest at the Hungry Cat
on June 24th. $35 all-you-can-eat CRABCHELLA!

jsunu...a drool comment..I am so flattered. we love the shrimp heads too...they were so sweet and juicy! you know of any good markets in Chinatown that have the spot prawns for a good price? We had to drive out to Monterey Park for these. I seriously wish there was a 99Ranch in Chinatown.

Passionate need to go to SB for the spot prawns. I'm sure they have it up there at the big Chinese markets. Just check the tanks. Ask the guy in the seafood know the guy with the long catfish mustache, I'm sure he knows. But do make a trip to SB for wine!!!

tracinamarie said...

Hi Jeni! It's Tracina and Mark, from a couple weeks back (you may or may not recall drinking lots of sake together!) We were talking that night about the crabfest at hungry cat and I was so excited the other day to realize that we'll actually be back from our honeymoon by then! Did you guys make reservations? We should coordinate and meat up for some yummy crabtasticness! u can email me at tracinamarie@yahoo
p.s. your meal looks soooooo fantastic! we tried the tempura shrimp heads that night with you and D for the first time and yes, they were delicious!

Jeni said...

Hey Tracina...of course I remember my Takumi buddies! When's your wedding??? We'll be at the Hungry Cat with a big group around 1pm. We're so excited for the crabs! I seriously hope you guys make it. Make reservations NOW!

Chubbypanda said...

That looks glorious. I love spot prawns any way I can get them. My favorite is lightly boiled with some light dipping sauces.

lilly said...

hey miss J!

you've been quoted! check it out!!

ps: tempura shrimp heads?!?! o_O

la dra said...

Boy, you guys ARE hard core-- what an amazing summer fresh menu! I'm inspired yet again. And that reminds me that we were thinking about heading to Lucques before the Bowl instead of the crabfest (I have lazy fingers and can't get into the crab picking) ;)

Katt said...

What a fantastic meal! You inspire me to dig into my cookbooks and cook a great meal for my friends :)

susan said...

omg you have made me insanely hungry. i haven't tried any of the recipes you did but dayam they look and sound so good. gorgeous pics as always!

tracinamarie said...

we're getting married this saturday, june 9th, and i'm up doing all these crazy crafty things for it that i thought was a good idea weeks ago, but now is completely idiotic! hopefully we'll see you at the hungry cat!
p.s. it looks like you had a shrimp-gasm!! it's almost pornographic! :)

your brudda said...

Hey, that's my coffee table!

themirthmobile said...

hey, i don't know any chinatown markets and i bet you tried A-1 market on sunset in echo park...the only other place i can think of is seafood city in the eagle rock westfield mall. but yeah, a 99ranch is seriously in need around here.

elmomonster said...

Are spot prawns amaebi? Looks like 'em. And I love 'em to death. Eat them raw and deep fry those rolly polly heads!

Quite a gorgeous spread you guys did there. How do you manage to get such beautiful shots with the same camera I use! Amazing!

Jen said...

ooooh!! me!! i want an invite!! looks sooooo gooooood!!

Jeni said...

Chubbypanda...I'm so looking forward to cooking these babies up in the next couple of months. They're so yummy!

Lilly..hey girl! How random you found that article! Hope all is well especially with Mt. Hermon. Would you like me to mail you some froyo? Have fun mama.

La Dra...would you be able to get a Sunday Supper meal before the Bowl? That would be ideal.

Katt...I'm so glad I got off my lazy butt and cooked. I got 4 new cookbooks for my birthday...I'm pretty excited to break into them. Fun fun!

Susan...OMG girl...the Paris Baguette stuff you got me were soo yummy! I ate them all by myself! Thanks so much for coming out for my birthday. Looooooved seeing you guys. Dylan was really happy too!

Tracina...Congratulations! Hopefully we'll see you at the Crab Fest! Wait, you guys are in Italy now!!! Must be nice.


Thanks Mirthmobile. I've gone to Seafood City...I'm not really impressed with their seafood though. Life would be perfect if there was a 99 Ranch down the street. How big is A-1? I haven't gone there yet. of our sushi chefs told us that they sometimes buy spot prawns for amaebi. They are sweeter and baby lobsters.

Jen...just bring some wine!


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