Although I have posted about prawns before (and here, and here, too), I still don’t feel that I have done this amazing, healthy and luxurious food justice. In my opinion, crustaceans in general, and giant prawns in particular, are among the best things to eat – and easiest to prepare as well.
Besides, it’s early March, which here, in Sweden, is still technically winter – if you count -12C overnight temperatures and snow piles not yet melted outside as winter. I mean, we have flowers now, too – the snowdrops are blooming their white little hearts out – but it’s still winter. Not for much longer, though – and while I love the Scandinavian winter, I long for summer warmth. And nothing screams summer like citrusy prawns with just a touch of heat and bite from chili. When consumed, they instantly transfer you to a sunny spot in a garden – provided that you’ve remembered to shut the windows against the bright sunny -5C day outside after
freezing airing the apartment out. What I am trying to say, is that these aren’t just for when it is summer out – they are even more wonderful when you wish it already were.
The best part about these (after how divinely they taste – the clean, bright flavors are such an antithesis to all the winter soups and stews and roasts!), is how amazingly easy and fast these are to prepare. You know me. I will not wiggle a lazy little toe more than I have to, and yet I want to eat and I want to eat healthy and gorgeously. And these prawns are it. And you can start with a bag of them deep-frozen, like I have, because prawns are one of those foods that defrost quickly and well when submerged in a sealed bag in a bowl of cool water. You can have these prawns out of the freezer and on the table within 30 minutes if you want – although I would recommend taking closer to an hour during which you do something else – like take a shower, read a book or vacuum the apartment out – while they marinate. But because seafood soaks up flavors so fast, an entire 40 minutes of marinating is not strictly necessary – these will be fine just after ten.
Ready? Here’s what you need for a summer-invoking lunch for two:
- 6 giant tiger prawns or 10-12 regular-sized ones
- 1 orange, zested and juiced
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, stripped off twigs and chopped (I just took scissors to my lemon thyme pot on the window with some rigor)
- 1 teaspoon of chili flakes (more or less depending on how hot your chili flakes are and how much heat you like)
- 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt to taste
- 1-2 cloves of garlic, pressed
- A squeeze of lemon (entirely optional – I added this because my orange was very sweet and lacked any hint of citrus tang. If you are blessed with a tangy orange, this is not needed)
- 2-3 tablespoons of neutral cooking oil – I use rapeseed (canola) because it has a similar fatty acid profile to olive (very good for your health!) but not the strong olive taste
- A cast iron griddle
- Makings for a green salad and/or some bread – whatever you like with your crustaceans
Here’s what you do:
- Put your frozen-solid prawns into a plastic bag and submerge it while holding the top above water, into a bowl of cool water. Clip top shut after the air is forced out. Let float.
- In meantime, juice and zest your orange. Discard pulp and put the zest and juice in a bowl.
- Press garlic into same bowl, add chili flakes and chopped thyme and swirl with a spoon to dissolve salt and taste, then adjust seasoning if needed. Set aside.
- Poke your prawns. They should be defrosted or nearly so. Rinse them in cold water and using sharp kitchen shears cut through their backs and devein them if needed. Devein if needed, cut through backs in any case unless they are already pre-cut.
- Drain on paper towel where they can finish defrosting if they are still a little stiff inside.
- In meantime add the oil to your marinade and swish with a spoon or fork to mix. Add prawns one by one to the bowl, poking them about so that marinade gets inside the cut backs of shells. Push them into the liquid as far as they’ll go (mine stuck out some) and let sit 10-40 minutes, depending on how hungry you are.
- Five minutes before you take the prawns out of the marinade (or nearly right away if you are opting for the 10-minute marinade), preheat a heavy cast iron frying pan coated with a thin layer of lard (if you are against lard, use non-hydrogenated shortening, coconut or cooking oil, whatever floats your cookware!) on medium heat. I use setting 6/9 on my induction stove. The pan should get hot enough to sizzle if you splash a drop of water on it, but not nearly hot enough to smoke.
- While pan heats, arrange your salad on plates, toast bread, etc.
- When ready, fish prawns out of the marinade (I use a pair of steel kitchen tongs), shake excess marinade off, and set them onto the hot pan. Prawns (over)cook very quickly, so don’t walk away!
- Cook without moving on one side until the prawn flesh has gone opaque at least to the halfway point in the cut you made in back of shell, and the shell on the underside has turned gorgeously pink.
- Flip the prawns and cook until the prawn is opaque throughout and no bits of shell are ‘uncooked’ grey. Do not cook longer than that, because overcooked prawns, which you have all met in many restaurants and family dinners, are rubbery. And that’d be a shameful thing to do to such wonderful food!
Pour yourself a glass of sparkling or just a good white wine, and sit in a sunny spot in your room. Instant summer!