Friday, October 5, 2012

Piccata Prawns and Pasta

What's hanging out in your freezer? I recently found a forgotten treasure in mine. The bottom freezer drawer, the drawer dedicated to seafood, was all topsy-turvy and jammed full. Cranky me rushed to reorganize and toss out some bait packages. Bait?! oh yes, we store fish heads, bellies and carcasses to use for halibut, crab and prawn bait. A small container of prawns lurked beneath some lox and bait packages, hiding almost in plain sight. How long had they been buried down there, tucked away under some fish fillets? Since Laredo Inlet, several weeks ago, and now it was time to eat those big guys, right away. 

Waiting for the prawns to defrost I considered some recipe possibilities, mentally tasting each preparation and weighing the effort involved. A great tasting, quick to make saute of Piccata Prawns won out, sauced and served over pasta. 

Most of the effort went into peeling the prawns. They are much faster and easier to peel after being frozen, so even that step did not take too long.

Lemon, garlic, butter, white wine and capers combined to create a sauce yummy enough to make even cardboard taste good... okay, maybe not cardboard. But it was delicious with prawns and pasta and came together in mere minutes. Cooking the pasta took longer than preparing the prawns and the sauce.

The tangy citrus notes of the lemon and the salty bite of capers provide a nice balance to the richness of the butter and prawns. Oh, yum! Piccata-style prawns (or chicken piccata) rank high on the list of family favorites, simple and quick enough for weeknight meals and tasty enough to serve to guests. They were also a tasty reward for straightening out the freezer, a bonus beyond a newly-organized freezer drawer with room for a few fillets and a lot of bait.

Piccata Prawns and Pasta
Serves 2+, appetite dependent

1 pound peeled and deveined large prawns/shrimp
2 tablespoons AP flour
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup lemon juce
1/4 cup lo-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon capers, drained
1/8 teaspoon each salt and freshly ground pepper, or to taste
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter (more as needed for prawns and at finish)
2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
cooked angel hair pasta or fettucine
lemon wedges, minced green onions, chopped fresh parsley (optional)
long pasta, cooked and drained
  1. Cook your pasta, drain, toss with a smidge of olive oil and hold in a warm bowl.
  2. In a small bowl or measuring cup combine wine, lemon juice, capers, salt and pepper. Set aside.
  3. In a paper bag or medium bowl toss prawns with flour until all pieces are coated. Set aside.
  4. Place the olive oil and butter in a large skillet and heat over medium-high heat until butter melts; add the garlic and cook for 15-20 seconds or until it is fragrant. Quickly add half of the prawns and cook 1-2 minutes per side, until they just turn opaque. Remove from skillet. Repeat with remaining prawns, adding more butter as necessary. Remove prawns from skillet, leaving any remaining oil and butter in the pan.
  5. Add the sauce to the skillet and cook until it bubbles and reduces slightly, stirring frequently. Return the prawns to the pan; stir constantly and cook for a minute or so until they are heated through, being careful NOT to overcook the prawns. 
  6. Remove from the heat; stir in another pat of butter or two (extra butter is optional, but it smooths the sauce nicely). Serve immediately over pasta. Garnish with lemon wedge and parsley.
Some Notes: 
  • Coating the prawns with flour is optional, but I find it helps pull the sauce together and cling to the prawns.
  • Capers are quite salty. If that's an issue then rinse and drain them.
  • Season the prawns with salt and pepper or a lemon pepper mix before or after cooking if you like. (I don't typically)
  • Mixed seafood is a terrific option, scallops and crabmeat blend well with prawns in piccata sauce. Or try a package of Trader Joe's mixed seafood blend for a fast preparation.
  • The pasta readily soaks up the sauce, so consider doubling the quantity of sauce per batch if you like very saucy pasta, or a tempting puddle of sauce for dipping your bread.

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