Tony’s Table: Prawns A La Plancha
From Bocadillos Restaurant
12 large prawns (16/20 count) with shell and head intact (about 3/4 pound total)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 teaspoon piment d’Espelette (or mild chili powder)
fleur de sel or other coarse salt for finishing
1 tablespoon of thin sliced fried garlic
1 teaspoon finely diced confit of lemon (lemon preserve)
1 teaspoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
Using a small scissors or paring knife, and working on the convex side (opposite the legs), cut along the length of each prawn shell, leaving the head and tail intact. Remove and discard the dark vein-like intestinal tract.
Heat a griddle, cast-iron skillet or sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and warm it until it ripples. (If you have just fried the sliced garlic, use the garlic flavored oil remaining in the pan to cook the prawns.) Add the prawns and cook on the first side for about 2 minutes, or until they begin to turn opaque. Using tongs, turn and cook on the second side for about 2 minutes, or until bright pink and opaque.
To serve, immediately transfer the prawns to a warmed plate and sprinkle with the piment d’Epelette, fleur de sel to taste, sliced garlic, lemon confit, and parsley. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil over the shrimp and toss well.
Although most Americans prefer their shrimp shelled, the shells add a lot flavor and help protect the shellfish from overcooking. Using head-on prawns will have the added bonus of allowing diners to suck on the heads to get every last morsel of meat. The job of shelling them at the table can be messy, but in this recipe the shell is split and the dark intestinal vein removed before they are cooked, eliminating some of the diners’ work. Provide plenty of napkins and serve crusty bread to soak up the juices.