My boyfriend, George, and I are currently in the Hamptons for his family's annual summer vacation. For our first dinner, we decided to head straight to the local fishmonger in search of some fresh seafood. Immediately, these giant prawns caught our attention. Armed with a couple pounds of these 5-inch long crustaceans, we scooped up some garlic, cilantro, and parsley, and headed home.
We then went fishing, caught several bluefish, and took them home to eat. We prepared the fish according to the fishing guide's instructions, and while they tasted pretty good, it was actually the ugliest looking dish I think I've ever prepared, so I won't share it. Now back to those prawns...
George fired up the grill while I prepared the prawns. Tiny shrimp look like little insects to me, but these big guys are strangely beautiful. The sections of their shells fit together like armor and their tails are pink and butterfly-shaped. I couldn't bring myself to peel off their pink and grey husks--plus they help keep the meat from overcooking--but there was the business of deveining. Thankfully, a quick call to my chef brother-in-law and a skim through a Bon Appetit article cleared things up. With a sharp paring knife, you can split open the shell from head to tail without removing it completely to scrape out the offending vein. Doing this also creates more crevices to soak up the bright, herby chimichurri-ish dressing.
About the dressing: my parents are from Argentina, so chimichurri holds a sacred place in our hearts and at the dinner table. This dressing is similar, and contains almost the same ingredients, but is streamlined so it's not really chimichurri. It comes together quickly and is bright and flavorful--the perfect thing for a quick dinner after a gloriously tiring day of fishing, so no one complained. (I thought fishing was supposed to be peaceful and meditative, but those bluefish are insanely strong. It was a workout.)
Born and raised in the midwest, cooking seafood feels unfamiliar and finicky. These prawns are soothingly easy to cook, and the whole thing comes together refreshingly quickly. We piled them on tacos with a lemony slaw, but they would go perfectly with just a hunk of warm bread and a glass of something cold (spiked, or not).
When you go to the fish counter, grab the biggest prawns/shrimp you can get your hands on. Wild caught is best.
8-12 giant prawns, shells on
6 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 tablespoons coarse sea salt
4 tablespoons finely chopped parsley, cilantro, or a combination of both
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 lemon, halved
4 cloves garlic, mashed
freshly ground black pepper
Get your grill as hot as you can. Alternatively, you can cook these inside in a very hot cast iron skillet. To devein the prawns, cut one long slice through the back of the shell using a sharp paring knife. Try not to cut too deep--you want to cut the shell and just slice through the top bit of flesh. Scrape out the vein, discard it, and rinse the prawn if necessary.
In a medium bowl, toss the prawns with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and 2 tablespoons of salt. In a separate serving bowl, combine the remaining olive oil, salt, herbs, red pepper flakes, the juice of half a lemon, garlic, and a few turns of pepper. Whisk to combine, and set aside.
Lay the prawns on the grill or cast iron skillet, and cook, flipping once or twice, until the shells are bright pink and the flesh is slightly opaque. Transfer them to the serving bowl and toss so the dressing coats the prawns evenly. Serve with slices of the remaining lemon half.