Paper Chef #9: Summer of Prawns
We missed Paper Chef last month. Well, actually, we didn’t: we cooked a Paper Chef meal, but we were then trapped in Portland away from computers for an extra day and lost our chance to post about it. We will soon, just for kicks, and only because the meal contained an edible object of such unspeakable terror that we dare not utter its name. So, so horrible… ph-nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn! Ahem. But enough about that. On to August.)
This month, says Owen of Tomatilla, it’s Paper Chef, the Local edition. Bonus points to everyone who sources their ingredients locally. (Bonus points? This is scored on a point system and no one told me?)
To that end, Owen picked ingredients that allowed at least most of us a fighting chance at local sourcing:
Edible flowers (especially lavender — woohoo!)
And (another woohoo!)
A local ingredient of your choosing
Items two and three were no problem. We have edible flowers of several kinds in our garden, and as fortune would have it, we had two bags of locally grown dried chilies left over from a recent trip to the farmer’s market.
Peaches were a bit more of an issue. The farmer’s market doesn’t have much fruit this time of year and the one farm I thought might grow peaches (or at least nectarines) was closed on the day we’d planned a visit. So, off to the grocery store where we broke our 100 mile radius, but kept ourselves in state by picking up a few peaches from Wenatchee Washington, just east of the Cascades.
But what to do about ingredient #4? We had ripe items in our garden, but we wanted something other than a vegetable and Chopper was getting this serious hankering for a Caribbean-themed meal. That’s it, I said, let’s go to the farmer’s market and see if Spot Prawn Guy is there.
The local spot prawn season is short — it only lasts a month or so in summer, but during that time, not only can we find spot prawns at the farmers market, but roadside stands with hand-painted signs announcing SPOT PRAWNS are as omnipresent as signs for charity car washes. (Okay, so we saw only two spot prawn signs and two charity car wash signs during the month of July, but you get the idea…)
During my childhood here in the 1970s, the stands and sales were plentiful. Now though, from what we can tell it’s pretty much down to one guy and his boat and his stand at the Northeast corner of the farmer’s market.
Of course Spot Prawn Guy didn’t tell us exactly where he got his amazingly fresh and delicious prawns (if he did, he’d have to kill us), but we know it’s nearby — probably no farther than Lummi Island, about 15 miles to the Northeast. We did find out we were quite lucky: this was his last catch of the season.
So, other than the peaches, did we stay in our radius? Well, um…. Okay, I admit, it was partly my fault. I had this crazy notion involving yams and the only yams we could find were from California. Yeah, we could have switched to potatoes from the garden, but it just wouldn’t have been the same. Oh, and Chopper used allspice, pepper, and garlic salt. (Forgive us, please!) But seriously, look how close to our kitchen our edible flowers are. See? We even measured:
(I should note that the herbs we used are just out of shot in that second photo, also a mere 16 feet from the kitchen window.)
So, with (mostly) local ingredients obtained and mise en place … er, in place, let the improvisational cooking begin:
Summer of Prawns
- 6 Puget Sound spot prawns
- 1 Fresh Wenatchee peach, split and pitted. Make sure to dig a small “bowl” out of the flesh
- 1 yam
- Chopper’s Blackening Spice (see below)
- 1 teaspoon fresh lavender
- 6 Fresh nasturtium blossoms
- Juice of 1/2 a lemon
- Custom BBQ sauce, as needed
Chopper’s Blackening Spice
- 8 dried paprika chiles (ground)
- 3 dried cayenne chiles (also ground)
- 1 teaspoon oregano (minced and dried)
- 1 teaspoon thyme leaves (dry)
- 1 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
- Start your CHARCOAL grill (Note the emphasis. Chopper hates gas grills. –Mrs D.)
- Peel and cut yam into 3/4″ to 1″ chunks and place in a small pot with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Simmer until soft. (You can check by trying to crush a chunk against the side of the pot). Drain and cool. Place in a food processor with lavender, and puree. Add lemon juice and season with salt to taste.
- Place spot prawns on your CHARCOAL grill, shell on. (Yes, we know, Charcoal good. Gas bad.)
- Heat a cast iron pan over medium-high heat.
- Dredge the cut side of each peach half in blackening spice. When your pan begins to smoke, place peaches in, spiced side down.
- Retrieve prawns from the CHARCOAL grill. (Did I mention Chopper hates gas? Oh… right…)
- Remove peaches from pan, they should be BLACK on the cut side.
- Peel prawns and brush lightly with sauce.
- Place peaches on a plate and fill the “bowls” with yam puree.
- Arrange prawns in the puree. Garnish with fresh nasturtium blossoms.
And how did it turn out?
Very Caribbean. Spicy, yet fruity and with a definite taste of the sea. I’d say this was one of those dishes I can only classify as “weird but good.” It’s a unique flavor combo and definitely not for everyone, but we liked it well enough to eat it up and contemplate variations on the theme. Oh, and it’s pretty. My camera says thank you for the pretty.