I haven’t had prawns in quite a few years. And being pretty much a purist about the flavor of fish, I don’t try to mask the flavor of it. Fresh water prawns have a really mild flavor so I tried to develop a recipe that would not cover up the texture, color or taste of them. For those of you that aren’t in love with shrimp or other stronger fish, these guys might be just the ticket.
The prawns I worked with were from the American Prawn Cooperative which has been around for nine years. Locals Seafood has just started working with these folks and providing their products at local farmers’ markets in the Triangle. They are free from chemicals, antibiotics and hormones and their containment/growing areas are set up in no-fly zones to avoid accidental contamination from crop dusting or other aircraft. Prawns from this cooperative are harvested only once per year in October and flash frozen. So we’re combining an out of season stored product with early spring harvest products.
Eventually I settled on a recipe that uses spring asparagus, a little color and lemon flavor from sorrel, fresh thyme, green onion, a bit of olive oil, a Grey Sea Salt mixed with Piment d’Espelette (Paprika pepper) from Savory Spice Shop, and thin capellini to hold it all together. Serving this with the fresh spring baby squash and beautiful bright green onions sauteed in olive oil makes for a colorful plate as the temperatures begin to warm up here in the south. It takes no time at all to put this together and you can either saute the prawns inside or grill them for some added smoke flavor. As an added bonus, this is great at room temperature or warm so you can adjust the recipe depending on the weather. This recipe will serve 2 comfortably.
Fresh Water Prawns & Pasta Spring Salad
- 1 lb NC fresh water prawns heads, tails & shells removed
- 1-2 Asparagus, shaved with vegetable peeler
- 2 Sorrel leaves, julienne
- 2-3 teaspoons finely chopped green onion
- 1 teaspoon finely chopped green garlic (if available)
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 6 oz dry capellini pasta
- 2 mature Napa Cabbage leaves (optional) or several baby Napa cabbage leaves
- A couple of turns of Four Corners Blend Peppercorns from Savory Spice
- 1/8-1/4 teaspoon Grey Sea Salt blended with Piment D’Espelette (Paprika Pepper) or fresh paprika pepper available from the farmers’ market (can be dehydrated and ground up)
- Wash your sorrel, cabbage & asparagus. Dry off everything with a clean towel or paper towel.
- Julienne slice the sorrel and cabbage. Set aside.
- Chop the green onion and green garlic and set aside.
- Using a vegetable peeler, shave ribbons of asparagus below the flower head f the plant. This is a great use for thicker mature asparagus.
- Toss your raw prawns with a little olive oil, fresh thyme, green onion, green garlic and a small amount of the grey salt blended with Piment D’Espelette.
- Using medium high heat or a heavy cast iron pan, quickly saute the prawns, thyme, onion and garlic in some good virgin olive oil. My favorite is a single source oil from Sicily and it has a bit of a peppery flavor, so it might not be for everyone. A little goes a long way with this oil matched against the prawns. You can always select a more mild EVOO or add just a smidge of some butter. Alternately, you can grill this on skewers very quickly. They don’t take long at all, maybe 4 minutes on the grill. Once they are firm, they’re finished. Set aside.
- Cook your pasta until it is barely cooked through. It will continue to finish cooking as you are blending it with the other ingredients.
- Toss the pasta, raw asparagus, raw cabbage, raw sorrel, cooked prawns, and any additional onions or garlic you would like with about a couple teaspoons of olive oil.
- The salt & pepper will take a couple of minutes to come up in flavor totally as it warms in the pasta and you can adapt to your tastes.
- Serve with bright spring yellow squash sautéed in olive oil with fresh herbs and tossed with local cheese like Calvander from Chapel Hill Creamery & serve.