Today was quick meal day.  At the home office and loaded with work, I wanted needed to make a simple lunch, but also craved something spicy/tasty.  The other day, I had purchased a big bag of flash frozen tiger prawns from one of the local markets.  The fridge still remained stocked with fresh veg from the last farmers market haul.  Marrying fresh ingredients with one frozen would be a dirty but easy cheat.  And the other cheat – I did it for two meals in a row.

Years back, my grand-uncle cooked a wonderful meal for my family during a visit to my grandmother’s home in Boston.  His scrumptious salt and hot pepper stir fried prawns came out perfectly crisp on the outside, tender in the middle, and with seasoning that I wanted to lick off the plate.  Grand-Uncle said his secret to getting the prawns to grill in the pan – dry the prawns prior to cooking.  Drawing out excess moisture prevented the prawns and the rest of the ingredients from boiling in its juices.  Gleaning his technique, I diligently dried my shrimp and only used a dry-spiced marinade.

Shrimp Two Ways

Cumin Spiced Shrimp (1 large serving)

6-7 large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 – 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1 garlic clove, minced
1 big pinch of sea salt
1 big pinch of black pepper

I took the tiger prawns out early to defrost, but ended up soaking the prawns in a water bath as hunger overtook my patience.  I drained and patted the shrimp dry with a few paper towels and then tossed all the ingredients into a bowl for a quick marinade.

In a large skillet, I heated up three big tablespoons of olive oil at the highest temperature possible and placed the shrimp in (should sizzle on contact), separating each with plenty of space in the pan.  The large shrimp finished in about a minute or so on each side (pink and an opaque center) – crisp and crusty on the outside, soft but cooked through on the inside.  I devoured my shrimp on a simple bed of lettuce.  As the shrimp carried a lot of flavor and olive oil from the pan, there was no need for any additional dressing.

Pimenton Shrimp with Salsa Fresca (1 large serving with leftover salsa)

6-7 large prawns, peeled and deveined
1 teaspoon pimenton
1 garlic clove, minced
1 big pinch of sea salt
1 big pinch of black pepper
few pinches of dried parsley

Salsa Fresca

1 large tomato, diced (with seeds removed)
1/2 onion diced
1 plum diced
juice from 1/2 lime
salt and pepper to taste

I’m a big fan of Spansh pimenton, and only the variety that is from De La Vera, and only the silkier La Chinata brand.  It’s like paprika, but better; New York Times heralds it as the “smokier cousin.”  I prefer the spicy picanteover the milder dulce.

The shrimp were prepared the same as previously mentioned, with all ingredients combined for a final dry marinade before cooking.  I made a separate salsa fresca as an accompaniment to offset the heat and smokiness of the pimenton, with all ingredients finely chopped and mixed.  I gave the tomato a quick squeeze after slicing to remove the seeds and extra juice, before finishing it with a dice.  A plum added some fresh sweetness, though mango, peach, or nectarine could have also been substituted in.

After the shrimp finished, everything was plated on a bed of lettuce and half an avocado.  Again, tasty with no dressing needed.

Pan cooked shrimp can be reinvented in many different ways simply by varying the seasoning – curry powders, lemon pepper, herbs de provence, seafood seasoning, chili powder, or just simple sea salt and black pepper.  The shrimp can also be cooked with the shell on, which is often the preference in Chinese cooking.

But always keep in mind Grand Uncle’s trick of – a good towel dry.