Tuesday, February 15, 2011

cajun-style stew with Alaskan spot prawns

We're getting battered with rain and wind here in the Puget Sound region, to the point that a "significant weather advisory" has been issued for the area.  Downed trees... power outages...  wetness that permeates the clothing, followed by the soul.  That's our home here.  Of course the advisory only lasts through the evening, but the wet,  it'll be with us.... let me check my calendar, here... oh, until about a week from eternity.  At least it seems to be so.

After yesterday's break in the clouds and subsequent migration of every single Seattleite and sweatered dog to Greenlake (or similar patch of green space), we're hunkered back down to wait out this next stretch of gloom.   Are those snow showers I see predicted for later in the week?  Lovely.  Nothing like very cold rain to perk up the spirit and make you want to walk to work. Huhhhh.

Okay.  I'm done complaining.

There is one exciting thing happening this time of year that I think tends to be overlooked by the masses.  It's actually been going on for a few months now, but I'm a little on the slow side sometimes, so I'm only now partaking.  That thing is spot prawn season.

Are you thrilled?

If you don't live on the West Coast of the U.S. or Canada, you may have never even heard of these little bottom-feeders (hungry yet?).  I just discovered them around this time last year.  It was instantaneous, though, my love for these shrimps.  The first pound I bought went into a pineapple fried rice with chili and lime.  That meal stands out, with its contrasting sweetness and spice, as one of the best I've ever made. (Of course the recipe didn't get written down.)

The following week I went back to the farmer's market, oblivious to all other vendors in my lust for more spot prawns.  Two pounds I'd buy this time around.  I circled the lot full of white tents, searching for the red-bearded fellow with the folding table, the cooler, and the white-board sign advertising his goods.  The devastation was as immediate as the love when I saw that his sign no longer displayed those words of temptation (SPOT SPOT spot, PRAWNS PRAWNS prawns - whispered in my ear like an echo of longing), but instead alleged that there were no more spot prawns.  For the entire season.

What was I gonna do?  Here I was, fresh from one of the best meals of my life, having had a taste of some seriously quality product, and now I was cut off?  Oh, the agony!  I nearly entered rehab.

I managed to suck it up and explain to Red Beard the Prawn Piscator (new word for me too - means "fisherman") how much I loved his prawns and how wonderful the meal I'd made with them turned out to be. I went on about how I prepared them, what spices went into my dish, and how I aspired to create more, more, more!  I'm not a big talker by nature, but this guy got one hell of an ear-full.

In return he offered me his card, and told me to call in, like, November or something, after he'd started fishing (prawning?) again.  I struggled to comprehend that sort of epic time frame.

But then!

Just a week or so ago, I received an email from my old chum, the Spot Prawn Guy (no longer sporting a red beard, unfortunately).  It was a definite surprise, as I'd already assumed death-by-giant-squid since he hadn't shown up at the market yet this season. 

No worries, though.  He arrived just in time for a spicy, Southern stew, inspired by a recipe from Bon Appetit. If you don't do spicy, you can cut the cayenne down and sub a non-spicy sausage for the andouille (which is HOT).

Cajun-Style Stew with Alaskan Spot Prawns
serves 4-6

3 T. butter
1 medium onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 C. sweet rice flour (or whatever flour you prefer)
2- 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes, drained
8 oz bottle clam juice
2 C. vegetable or fish stock
1 lb. Andouille sausage
1 small bunch collard greens or kale, roughly chopped
1 lb. spot prawns, peeled, deveined and cut in half (any medium to large shrimp will work)
salt, to taste

  • Heat a skillet over medium and add the sausages.  Cook, turning every 3-4 minutes, until the sausage is just cooked, about 10-12 minutes.  A little undercooked is better than overcooked.  Remove the sausages from the pan, cut into 1/2-inch slices, and set aside.
  •  While the sausage is cooking, heat the butter in a large pot over medium-low heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, stir, and continue to cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Add the cayenne pepper and sprinkle the flour over the onions and garlic.  Stir the mixture and cook for several minutes.  Add the tomatoes, clam juice and stock, and turn the heat up to medium-high. When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, slightly covered, for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the sliced sausage and chopped collard greens, stir and cook another 5 minutes.  Taste the soup and adjust the salt level as necessary.  If your broth was salty, you may not need much more.  Be careful with the shaker.  Feel free to add more cayenne at this point, also.
  • Turn off the heat, stir in the spot prawns, cover the pot, and allow to sit until the prawns are cooked through, about 5 minutes.  Ladle the stew into bowls and serve.
What you'll end up with is a deliciously thick, spicy, tomatoey stew.  The sausage and shrimp go together fabulously, and the greens round things out on the nutrition side.  The next time around, I'll be one-upping this version with chopped bell peppers and mushrooms.  I can hardly wait...

It turns out that I'm not the only one crazy for spot prawns.  Up in Vancouver, B.C., there is an annual Spot Prawn Festival that I learned of through Gourmet Fury.  Just one more reason why the Pacific Northwest rocks!


  1. Wow, lady! What a fantastic treat for the rainy season! Really digging your writing and photos; beautiful, all around. I hear rave reviews of these meals everyday from the 300 lb. tunce in the room that everyone knows is there, but doesn't dare mention, for fear of being jubnered out of existence. Well done!

  2. I LOVE spot prawns, they are one of the best reasons to live on the west coast. Them and the Dungeness.

  3. What a fun post...so I assume you will be attending that festival :) Fantastic recipe and love the photos :)


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