Cooking with Nathan : Grey Prawns

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Okay, I understand that the title of this post may not sound all that enticing. There is a reason, after all, why we do not judge how tasty food is according to its degree of greyness. But stay with me…

The city is getting back on its feet after the exceptional acqua alta (whilst bracing itself for another round this coming weekend). I’m at the fishmonger at Palanca, on Giudecca. I miss Rialto Mercato a bit, but Palanca is just two stops away on the vaporetto, so that’s where I usually go for fish these days.

And they have – grey prawns. Or gamberi grigi if you prefer.

IMG_5038

They do not look particularly lovely, and at 30 euros a kilo they are not particularly cheap either. Nevertheless, I think they need to be tried.

The biggest ones are, perhaps, half the length of my little finger. I have no idea how to cook them. The fishmonger tells me to boil them in salted water for two minutes. So here are my first experiments with grey crustaceans…

Gamberi Grigi for two

Ingredients

100g of grey prawns

One courgette

One lemon

Some olive oil

Some salt and pepper

Method

I cooked this to the new Hawkwind album “All Aboard the Skylark”. Which is fantastic, and you should definitely listen to it. It doesn’t actually take all that long to cook, but I was preparing a main course as well, and also experimenting a little along the way. Which is why it took fifty minutes instead of five minutes.

I wasn’t completely sure about the best way to prepare these. Boiled prawns sounded, well, as exciting as boiled seafood always sounds. Which is to say, not very. So I experimented with cooking them two ways, (1) boiling for two minutes and (2) frying for two minutes.

The fried ones went the traditional pink colour, whereas the boiled ones remained resolutely grey. I couldn’t quite decide between the two. The fried ones were crispy and could be eaten whole, whereas the boiled ones had, perhaps, a greater delicacy of flavour. In the end I passed the decision over to Caroline who said that the boiled version – having no flavour of olive oil – was the most pure, and so I went with that.

The method is incredibly simple :–

1) Slice the courgette into rounds, toss in olive oil and griddle until just a little charred on both sides. Dress with lemon zest, lemon juice and as much olive oil as you think it needs. Set aside. You do not actually need courgettes, but you will feel virtuous for having added some vegetables.IMG_5041

2) Rinse the prawns. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil. Throw the prawns in for two minutes, then drain and add to the courgettes.

3) Eat, ideally with fingers. Sucking of heads is to be encouraged.

I thought these were delicious, and fun to eat and to prepare. 100g was a good amount for a starter, and came in at a modest three euros.

Happy eating!

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