Split Prawns Appetizer
I’m always trying to find or create showy but simple appetizers. What I want to deliver is something hot, tasty and visually appealing. For appetizers, the visually appealing part is very important to me. It gets people in the mood for dining and sets the tone for the rest of the meal. Split prawns is a perfect example of what I’m talking about.
First, the lightly browned prawns/shrimp in their pink shells, arrayed on a plate with a few baby greens and lemon wedges has eye appeal, for sure. The prep can be done well ahead, and from the time your skillet or griddle is hot to plating is just a few minutes. As for flavor, I tend to like a bit of garlic and ginger, but the options are limitless. Basil and oregano are good possibilities, or lemongrass, scallions, chili peppers, sriracha, or Cajun/creole seasonings, perhaps.
These are finger food. Because the shells remain on the shrimp they can easily be picked up and the meat popped straight into your mouth. A little cocktail sauce or spicy dip on the side is a nice accompaniment. One of my favorites is a New Orleans-style remoulade.
All you need for this dish is a very sharp knife and a cast iron skillet or griddle, along with the largest prawns/shrimp you can get your hands on (within reason, of course).
- 3-4 large shrimp per person
- High temperature oil like peanut or avocado oil
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tbsp. minced fresh ginger
- salt and pepper
- Using a sharp chef's knife or cleaver, carefully split each of the prawns/shrimp lengthwise (remove heads, if necessary but not shells).
- Once the prawns are split, remove any visible veins with the tip of a sharp knife.Set aside.
- Heat a large cast iron skillet or griddle over moderately high heat.
- When the pan is hot, add enough oil to coat the cooking area. When the oil shimmers and is near smoking, add the garlic and ginger and cook for about 30 seconds, then place the shrimp in the hot oil, open side down.
- Working in batches, if necessary, cook the shrimp until the flesh is opaque and lightly browned, then briefly flip to the shell side. The whole process should take only 2-3 minutes per batch.
- Serve with lemon wedges and your favorite shrimp dipping sauce.
- This is a very basic version. You can flavor the shrimp with just about any dry seasoning or combination of seasonings you like. Dry rubs are very good for this preparation.