This week's recipe comes to you via a request from one of our customers through a letter written to Gourmet magazine. The request was made for the recipe of one of our longest running appetizer dishes - Barbecue Cajun-Style Prawns.
So I thought it would be nice if I shared it with my local customers well before it hits the national media. I guess that's called "scooping." Yep, we're going to "scoop" the national media for this recipe.
One of the questions I get asked regarding not only this recipe but any recipe that comes from the South, is what is the difference between Cajun and Creole?
I personally asked that age-old question when I met Paul Prudhomme. He gave me a detailed description of the two, but the short description was basically that Creole food was more bourgeois or French influenced because there were so many French living in the South, especially Louisiana. Their food seems to be more refined with many dishes reflecting French traditional foods combined with the ingredients and style of the area. Cajun food is a more rustic country-style with influence from American Indians of the area, and it tends to be more spicy.
Now I know in saying this I am probably stirring the pot, which will spark comments from native Southerners and Louisianans with their interpretations.
I don't claim to be an expert, having grown up in the San Francisco Bay area. But I can tell you this: The people of the South are some of the greatest I have had the pleasure to meet. I love their culture, I love their food, and I love the people. That's why so many items on my menu have been influenced by people and chefs from that area who I have met or read about.
This recipe seems complicated, but it really isn't. It is more about prepping the fish and vegetables properly. It is kind of like Chinese food - once everything is prepped, it goes together easily. When you start the cooking process you can't just walk away; this dish takes very little time to cook.
With spicy dishes like this I think you need a bold, fruit-forward wine. I definitely do not recommend a chardonnay. My top recommendation would be a French or California rosé, which are becoming more and more popular.
People are rediscovering this wine, and enjoying it with oriental dishes and other spicy dishes like the Cajun-style prawns. I also think a viognier is a great choice with this dish. For a rosé, I like a French one - Domaine de Nizas, 2005, Coteaux du Languedoc. My viognier choice, which is one of my favorites, is Sobon Estate, 2005, Amador County.
Speaking of Amador County, pack up a picnic lunch and take a ride to the wine country there. They make some world-class wines, many of which are Rhone-style rosés. The Sobon family makes a great rosé as well. The trip to Amador County makes for a great day and is always a learning experience. But if you can't get away visit our friends at Ben's Liquor and Aloha Wine and Spirits. As always enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!
4 jumbo prawns (size 10-12) cleaned, deveined, shelled leaving tail attached
16 shrimp (size 26-30) cleaned, deveined, shelled with tail removed
Seasoning for shellfish:
2 T. organic all-purpose flour
1 tsp. dried sage
1/2 tsp. dried whole thyme
1/2 tsp. ground thyme
1/2 tsp. dried whole oregano
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. cracked black pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
2 tea bags (black tea) remove tea from bags
In a mixing bowl combine all ingredients thoroughly. Set aside.
2 T. virgin olive oil
1/4 cup sweet red bell pepper, diced into quarter to half inch squares
1/4 cup green bell pepper, diced into quarter to half inch squares
1/4 cup celery, diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 T. or 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
1 T. organic all-purpose flour
1 T sherry vinegar or apple cider
1/4 tsp. cumin
1 T. pure maple syrup
1 T. Tabasco or other hot sauce
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup fish stock or vegetable stock
1/2 cup chili sauce (tomato based) or ketchup
1/4 cup scallions, chopped for garnish
Lightly coat the shellfish with the seasoning mixture. Set aside and allow about 30 minutes for the spices to marry with the prawns and shrimp. Now you are ready to start cooking.
In a 12-inch saute pan (with a lid) heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and add the red and green bell peppers, celery, jalapeno pepper and garlic. Saute until slightly translucent, approximately 6 to 8 minutes. Do not let this mixture brown. At this time add the flour (the use of flour is to make a roux) and stirring constantly cook 1 minute. Add the prawns and cook for 2 minutes per side only (I know they will still be undercooked at this time).
Add the vinegar, cumin, maple syrup, tabasco and Worcestershire sauce. Stir and cook for 1 minute and then add the stock and chili sauce. Cook for about another minute. Add the shrimp and cover. Cook 3 minutes or until the prawns and shrimp are fully cooked. (This is a very important part of the preparation. If you lose your attention there are two things which can happen. Either you burn the sauce or over cook the shellfish which will make them chewy.)
Note: Check the sauce for salt and add to your taste. I personally don't think it needs more salt.
Place the sauce on the bottom of a platter with the prawns in the middle. Surround the edges of the platter with the shrimp and sprinkle the chopped scallions over the top for garnish.
• Charlie Abowd is the owner and chef at Adele's. He and his wife, Karen, have lived in Carson City since 1980. Charlie is a fourth-generation restaurateur.