Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cajun BBQ Prawns

Photo: Bowl of Cajun BBQ Prawns with shells on

With two days of sunshine in a row, why spend time inside in the galley? Not me, I took the easy way out, with absolutely no guilt. I could get used to this combo of sunshine and easy living.

“So, what would you like to grill for dinner tonight…?” was the approach that worked last night. He manned the barbecue and we shared a steak with a side of salad. After dinner I threw together a batch of No-Knead Sourdough bread, adding 1/4 cup of mixed grains and 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts to the usual list of ingredients. That was easy, with minimal effort for some major enjoyment the next few days. The bread rose overnight (around 12 hours) and completed it’s second rise (about 6 hours) while we cruised to the new anchorage.

No-guilt delegating is one thing, but the Capt. did run the boat and navigate several intricate, shallow and narrow passages. Okay, I could handle the easy-style cooking the next night. Luckily the makings for a Cajun Barbecued Shrimp feast were on hand. Just peel the shrimp, pull some sauce out of the freezer, slice the bread already baked and ready for dipping, and grab some pickled okra from the pantry... how easy is that? Oh wait, we needed some token healthy side dishes. Asian pickled, sliced cucumbers and some chunked tomatoes and basil in balsamic vinegar were the choices, in keeping with the easy motif.

We first enjoyed Cajun-style food at Burk’s Restaurant in Ballard, in the late 70’s I think. Gumbos, hot sausages, muffeletta sandwiches, BBQ Prawns, decadent desserts - I really miss Burk’s since it closed last year. One taste of prawns, bathed in butter and hot sauce… I was hooked, and had to have a recipe. Bon Appetit magazine, October 1980, provided a good start. Eventually Burk shared his version, and since then I have found scores more recipes in cookbooks and online.

This dish is not heart-healthy, diet-friendly, cardiologist-approved or anything sensible like that, but it is awesomely good. Adjust the sauce recipe to reflect the seasonings on hand, substitute like flavors and spices, use the oven, stove top or grill: it doesn’t matter. Just don’t overcook the shrimp. We enjoy fresh-caught Cajun BBQ Prawns as an entrĂ©e, but the recipe is versatile as an impromptu Happy Hour appetizer as well. In town, keep a bag of shrimp in the freezer along with a portion of sauce (or whip up a fast batch of sauce) and serve from the stove or grill as a baguette topper or on skewers. These tasty morsels disappear quickly.   

Rhapsody Cajun-Style BBQ Prawns

1 stick butter
3 TBS olive oil
1 lemon, thinly sliced and quartered
small knob of gingerroot, minced
1 TBS Worcestershire
1/4 tsp hot pepper sauce
1 TBS fresh garlic, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
(liquid smoke, optional)

Chili Sauce (“Homemade Chili Sauce” from Ballard Market or your choice)

Prawns - recipes variously call for heads on/heads off, shelled/unshelled, jumbo size/large size. It’s fun but incredibly messy to suck the sauce off of unpeeled prawns. If you do peel the critters ahead of time, save their shells to flavor a seafood stock for soups or chowders. (But avoid my fish stock fiasco!)

Sauce Directions:
Place the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan on very low heat. Slice the lemon and add. Chop the ginger in small pieces and add. Place the remaining ingredients in the pan. Simmer for twenty minutes on low. Strain through fine sieve, pressing through with a wood spoon. Discard the pulp.

Note: This recipe makes more sauce than you might typically use for one dinner. The flavored butter may be used immediately, refrigerated for up to one week, or frozen. You will only use 2 to 3 oz max per serving, though it’s tempting if not healthy to eat it with a spoon when no one is looking.

Stovetop Directions a la Burk's:
Place a scant 3 oz of the flavored butter in a skillet for each serving of six jumbo prawns in the shell. Place on high heat. When the butter begins to sizzle, saute the prawns until they turn pink and curl, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Add one tsp. of “Homemade Chili Sauce” for each serving and swirl briefly. Serve in a bowl with ample sauce.

Oven Method a la Bon Appetit:
Cook the sauce ingredients at simmer for 10 min. Strain and let cool to room temperature. Pour over shrimp and marinate for 2 to 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Preheat oven to 300. Bake, 15 to 20 minutes, turning frequently, until shrimp just turn pink. Don’t overcook the shrimp.

Note: However you cook it, serve in wide, flat bowls with a scoop of rice and plenty of warm bread on the side to soak up the sauce.  Green salad and a bowl of pickled okra provide the greens. Caramel Pecan Bars and ice cream are a great dessert… if anyone has room.

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