One of the perks of living in a tropical island is the abundance and variety of seafoods that can be enjoyed at relatively cheaper prices. On my trip to the market this morning, these beautiful creatures the size of my hands caught my eye. The moment I laid eyes on them, I thought: "Prawns thermidor, prawns thermidor..."
Since I arrived at the market relatively late, around 9.30-ish in the morning, the vendors sold them to me at half-price for Php 150/kg (US $3.26/kg or $1.48/lb). Not too bad considering that each prawn weighed about 7 oz. each (about 250 g). I have found this to be a very useful strategy for saving money. Because the vendors are eager to get rid of their inventory, they will sell you their goods at a lower price to make a sale when closing time nears. As one vendor told me, "Unsold inventory is cash in hibernation." However, you have to ask. If you don't, they will sell it to you at their initial selling price.
Like in most Asian countries, bargaining is the rule of the game. I haven't mastered this art yet, but I'm getting more comfortable with it. Remember this line fellow expats: "Is that your last price?" Commit it to memory. You will have more money in your bank account. Don't do this in supermarkets and department stores, prices are fixed at these places.
I told you they were the size of the palm of my hands!
You thought I was exaggerating?!
Needless to say, these creatures were meant to be taken home by yours truly. Saying that my name was written all over them was an understatement. I mean they were the size of the palm of my hands, for cryin' out loud! Enough said!
So, what to do with these king prawns? Prawns thermidor!
Some recipes say to boil the prawns first and then remove the meat from its shell after it has cooled. I prefer to do the opposite since I want the prawns' juices to be included in the sauce.
4 pcs. king prawns, about 7 oz (200 g) each
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 pcs of shallots, peeled and finely chopped
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
1/2 cup (118 g) sliced mushrooms
3 tbsp (25 g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup (118 g) freshly grated Cheddar cheese
2 bell peppers (optional), 1 green and 1 red, slice into strips
1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) white wine
1 cup (230 ml) heavy cream
Remove the meat from the shell. Here's how:
Cut off all appendages. Using a pair of kitchen scissors will
make your life easier. If you don't own one, use a serrated knife.
On the prawn's dorsal side,
cut the prawn's shell open from head to tail or vice versa.
Remove the meat, making sure the shells are intact.
The meat will come off easily if the prawns are fresh.
It should look like this once you remove the meat. Blanch the shells.
Voila! Turn off heat as soon as the shells turn to this color.
Plunge in cold water.Overcooked shells become brittle and break easily, thus making it difficult to stuff. Set aside.
On to the cooking.....
Pre-heat oven to 350 F (177 C).
Chop each prawn into 5 pieces. Set aside.
On medium high heat, add olive oil to the pan and sautee shallots and mushrooms, till brown and cooked through.
Add garlic, sautee for 25-30 more seconds.
Add the the prawns and wine. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the brown bits. (For those of you who are new to the culinary arts, this is what we call 'deglazing.' We are deglazing the pan with wine. Don't skip this step, this is where the flavor is.) Reduce heat. Remove the chopped prawns when it has turned pink.
When the liquid has evaporated, add cream. Bring to a boil, for about 3 minutes.
Put chopped prawns back in. Turn off the heat.
Add the cheddar cheese. Stir when melted. Add salt and pepper.
Filling the shell:
Arrange shells on a baking dish and fill each shell with the mixture, putting 5 pieces of chopped prawns per shell.
Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Pretty it up (optional):
(You can skip this step if you wish. I'm just fussy when it comes to preparing my food. They have to be pretty (to me), artistic and colorful. I apply the principles of painting/drawing to my cooking in a sense that I consider color, texture and presentation in every dish I prepare. After all, an empty plate is a blank canvas. Anyway, you need not incorporate my fussiness. Ultimately, it's the taste that's paramount in every dish.)
Arrange bell pepper strips on top of the prawn diagonally, alternating between colors. See picture above.
Put the prawns in the oven. Remove when parmesan has melted.