May 24, 2018 9:05 PM   Subscribe

I have about 12-18 HUGE spot prawns that were given to me fresh, then frozen, that I want to do justice to when I have my parents over for dinner tomorrow night. I can find about 10000 different ways to cook them on the internet, but I need to determine which is the BEST way.

They were frozen whole, heads on and everything. I'm stoked to cook em up... but there are FAR TOO MANY POSSIBLE WAYS TO DO THAT.

I've got a gas grill, stove top, oven, and other standard methods of cooking available to use.. I don't have too many of them, but I want the prawns to the star of the meal, though I will be serving with plenty of other sides, so I'm not worried about not enough food overall. Ideally, I'd like something that is on the simple side in terms of prep work,, I know they shouldn't take very long to actually cook regardless of what I do.

I LOVE seafood, and so do my parents, but I do not have a lot of experience in cooking fresh seafood. In general though, I'm a capable and confident home cook, not easily intimidated by new cooking techniques or ingredients. Recipes using basic things I already have in the pantry/herb garden would be ideal, but I can (and probably will) run to the store if need be. My parents are fairly meat-and-potatoes with salt and pepper type of people, and enjoy your basic garlic-butter-lemon types of flavours, but they can be fairly adventurous every once in awhile. Anything peanut, cilantro, or curry would be out, though.

The prawns are thawing now, and will likely be completely thawed by the morning. I've got a bit of time in the am for a bit of prep work on them, but I plan on cooking/serving in the evening. I'm open to looking at a few different recipes, but ideally I'm kind of hoping to narrow the many options down and find a bit of a consensus here to tell me how I should approach cooking these bad boys.

BONUS: I'm definitely planning on saving the heads and shells to make some stock later on, so any advice regarding that portion of the project would be welcome as well :)
posted by wats to Food & Drink (9 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The trick with prawns/shrimp/etc. is to not undercook them but also not to overcook them either (I mean I know that's true of anything but I find it that the target is harder to hit with seafood than, say, chicken). I'd "keep it simple, stupid" since you have only 12-18 and not a ton of experience cooking seafood. Classic scampi, maybe even foolproof it by using a timed method like in this recipe rather than totally winging it. You can easily substitute the oven for a grill with that recipe if you prefer.
posted by axiom at 9:42 PM on May 24, 2018

Something like this is pretty hard to beat and super-easy (maybe with fresh lemon juice instead of vinegar, and some garlic.) And some crusty bread for sopping up the shrimpy oil left over.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:50 PM on May 24, 2018

If you think your parents might prefer peeled and headless prawns, my favourite way of cooking topnotch prawns is on this page, listed under 'my favourite pasta recipe'. It's quick and difficult to get wrong: you just have to make sure the prawns are pink to know they are done, and if you keep the heat low enough that the oil is barely bubbling, they shouldn't overcook. You don't even need to pass the mixture through a blender as he suggests, if you chop finely.

I have served this over grits (made without cheese) with a light salad on the side. You should use the best olive oil you can manage.
posted by tavegyl at 9:59 PM on May 24, 2018

Shrimp scampi with penne pasta tossed into the sauce.

First, start water boiling and put the penne pasta on to cook when you start the shrimp. Cook the pasta for 1 minute less than the instructions call for, which is about 10 minutes, which will coincide nicely with the shrimp.

For the shrimp, take a large pan that will fit both shrimp and pasta. Melt a stick of butter (yes a whole stick, 1/2 cup), garlic “to taste” (for me that’d be 4-5 cloves, minced fresh, but I love garlic), about a teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/3 cup or so of white wine (e.g. Chardonnay). The alcohol will cook off and the liquid will reduce, so err on the side of more wine than less wine. For added flavor, you can sprinkle in some onion salt, garlic powder, thyme and oregano—cover the surface of the liquid lightly with each spice. When the butter’s completely melted and the sauce is bubbling, add the shrimp and keep the heat on medium low. Cook for about 10-12 minutes or until the shrimp are white and opaque.

Your pasta will finish cooking just before your shrimp do. Drain your pasta and toss it in the pan with the shrimp and sauce. Stir/toss pasta until it’s coated and let it cook for another 1-2 minutes. Serve.

Top with shredded Parmesan for added deliciousness.
posted by Autumnheart at 10:40 PM on May 24, 2018

My dad makes this. If I had to die and choose a last meal, it would be this.

Pro tip : add extra garlic, eat with lots of white jasmine rice and spoon the sauce over it, and suck the outside of the shrimp shell, peel the shell, then suck the shrimp heads to eat the best part. This must be cooked with the shell and heads for the flavor and the amazing sauce.

Shanghai Shrimp Stir Fry
posted by yueliang at 11:22 PM on May 24, 2018 [3 favorites]

My personal preference for cooking prawns in their shell is to poach them in a fairly lightly flavoured broth (say parsley and lemon, with plenty of salt) and serve them with a flavourful dip. I tend to find that most recipes that try to introduce a lot of flavour into the prawn itself are a bit underwhelming due to the effective protection provided by the shell. You'll get a bit of flavour through from poaching, but I tend to think that mostly plain prawn with something to contrast it is the best way to go. Poached prawns are also easier to peel.

The obvious choice of dip here would be bagna càuda, which can also be used with the other food you've prepared (and will justify keeping things simple).

You'd be looking at somewhere between about 5 and 8 minutes cooking for the prawns, I reckon.
posted by howfar at 5:39 AM on May 25, 2018

Because of their size, I would marinate briefly in olive oil or butter, garlic, white wine, herbs, then grill them, shell on for flavor. Make a scampi sauce with broth from the heads, lemon, garlic, white wine, herbs, reduced, serve with linguine, and an arugula salad.
posted by Mom at 7:38 AM on May 25, 2018

I've previously posted about Prosciutto-Wrapped Shrimp with Basil, Mozzarella, Extra Vecchio Balsamico & Aïoli. The dish looks impressive, tastes terrific. And not too difficult to prepare. The first time I tried that recipe was with extra colossal tiger shrimp, and it served as a meal on its own.
posted by Kabanos at 7:42 AM on May 25, 2018

I mean it's on the cover of the Biro cookbook for goodness sake.
posted by Kabanos at 7:47 AM on May 25, 2018

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