I am all about the rush for seasonal wild Alaska spot prawns, those delicious, plump, sweet crustaceans that are truly a treat in this part of the world. If you haven’t convinced any local shrimpers to share their catch, you can look for these beauties at your local seafood market, grocery store or roadside vendor. They’re best freshly harvested out of the pristine waters of Prince William Sound and don’t need much time in the kitchen. Usually, just a light steam or quick sauté, a slick of warm butter or good olive oil and a handful of fresh herbs will do.
[Like to cook Alaska-style? Don’t miss a recipe. Get our food newsletter delivered to your inbox every Friday: Sign up here]
To gild this sea lily, I like to cook unsalted butter until browned and toasty, with both black pepper and hot sauce and even a few pinches of red pepper flakes. I just got back from the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and am all about Cajun and Creole flavors, so lately, I also like a good low-sodium spice blend to add a nice kick. You can peel and de-vein the prawns, if you must, but I much prefer cooking them shell-on for maximum flavor, especially if you’re into sucking all that buttery juice out of the heads. Make sure to have lots of good crusty bread for sopping up the highly addictive sauce. Try with a cold beer or some chilled white, such as a chenin blanc or dry riesling.
Cajun brown butter spot prawns
2 pounds spot prawns, preferably shell and head-on; otherwise peel, leave tails on and de-vein, if preferred
1/2 cup unsalted butter
6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup dry white wine or brown ale
1 to 2 tablespoons low-sodium Cajun seasoning
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
Hot sauce, such as Tabasco, Crystal or Frank’s RedHot
2 to 3 green onions, trimmed and thinly sliced
Method: Lightly rinse prawns in cold water, let drain and pat dry with paper towels; set aside. Heat a large heavy-bottom pan, preferably cast iron, over medium-high heat. Add butter and let melt, stirring occasionally, until frothy and starting to brown and smell nutty, about 8 minutes. (If getting too brown or starting to burn, reduce heat accordingly.) Add garlic and cook 1 minute. Add wine and cook 1 minute. Stir in Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and a generous amount of hot sauce. Stir and add prawns. Let cook about 5 to 7 minutes, depending on size, and turn once or twice only and until shells just begin to turn pink, being careful not to overcook. Remove from heat. Cut lemon in half; squeeze juice of half of lemon over prawns and cut the other half into thin slices and add slices to pan. Taste sauce and adjust seasoning, adding more pepper or hot sauce, as desired. Garnish with green onions and serve with lots of bread and extra bowls for discarding shells.
More shrimp recipes: