Prawn Cocktail

Back in the 1960’s a Prawn Cocktail was a very popular hors d’œuvre. Simple and tasteful, always a pleasure. Today it’s not just unfashionable, it’s close to being hilarious (as far as food can be hilarious). A chef serving a Prawn Cocktail? You must be kidding me!

The two essential elements of a Prawn Cocktail are Prawns and Cocktail Sauce. Yes, indeed, another invention from the 1960’s: Cocktail Sauce. In most cases something in a jar or mayonnaise mixed with powder. But don’t underestimate Cocktail Sauce. It works really well with (cooked) seafood.

Prawns in this case must be grey shrimps, crevette grise, grijze garnalen, Nordseegarnele, quisquilla gris, the common shrimp also known as Crangon Crangon. Preferably home cooked and peeled, but home peeled is also fine. The peeled once have travelled half the world (because they were peeled in a low-wage-country), were twice frozen and treated with food preservatives leading to a loss of quality.

Basically there are two ways of serving the dish: serve the cocktail sauce in a champagne coupe with the prawns hanging on the rim of the glass or as a cocktail, so with multiple layers in the glass.

Wine Pairing

We enjoyed our Prawn Cocktail with a glass of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur Lie produced by Domaine Raphael Luneau. This is a very aromatic wine with a strong flavour and a long finish, which goes really well with the taste of the shrimps and the velvety sauce. The term ‘sur lie’ indicates that during a few months the wine stayed in contact with the dead yeast cells left over after fermentation. This technique makes the wine more complex.
In general a fresh, light wine with a clear acidity, such as a Muscadet Sèvre et Maine, will go very well with seafood.

What You Need

  • 200 gram of unpeeled (and uncooked) Grey Shrimps
  • Black Pepper
  • Common Corn Salad
  • Walnuts
  • For the Cocktail Sauce
    • (Home made) Mayonnaise
    • Ketchup
    • Worcestershire Sauce
    • Horseradish (preferably fresh)
    • Lemon
    • Vinegar
    • Mustard
    • Tabasco Sauce

What You Do

Cook the shrimps for 2 or 3 minutes in water with a pinch of salt. Let cool. Peel the shrimps. This is time consuming! Feel free to keep the outer shell and the tails; they will make for excellent stock.
Combine two tablespoons of mayonnaise with three or four teaspoons of ketchup, two teaspoons of Worcestershire sauce, one teaspoon of grated horseradish, one teaspoon of vinegar and one teaspoon of mustard. Now it’s a matter of tasting and adjusting. Feel free to add some lemon juice. The cocktail sauce needs a bit of a punch, so add a few drops of Tabasco sauce. The cocktail sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two days.
Coarsely crush two or three walnuts. Mix the shrimps with some black pepper.
Add some leaves of the common corn salad to the glass, sprinkle some walnut over the leaves, then a generous helping of cocktail sauce and finish with the peeled shrimps. Don’t forget to play some nice music from the 1960’s, for instance Helen Shapiro’s Walkin’ Back to Happiness.

Prawn Cocktail ©cadwu
Prawn Cocktail ©cadwu

Flan with Prawns, Blue Cheese, Spinach and Dill

Something on a Spoon

A glass of white wine, perhaps a glass of Crémant d’Alsace or maybe even a glass of Champagne; such a great way to start dinner (or lunch when you feel like treating yourself). You enjoy some bread with homemade Tapenade, or a few nice olives. All good. And then suddenly the chef presents you her or his Amuse-Bouche. Something very special and an indication of the chef’s talent. But in most cases it’s something on a spoon and not very special.

A bit of background: amuse-bouche is actually not a French term. Restaurateurs made it up because they think amuse-gueule (the correct term) is a bit harsh. ‘Gueule’ can refer to both humans and animals. And ‘ferme ta gueule’ is far from polite. So restaurateurs started using ‘bouche’, to eliminate the impression that they think their guests have a snout.

Some say the concept of the amuse was invented by the Nouvelle Cuisine in the 1960s. Not really. In 1946 Francis Ambrière, in his book Les Grandes vacances, writes … Une côtelette à midi. Quelques amuse-gueule à l’heure du goûter. Et le soir, ô splendeur, un gigot bien saignant, le premier gigot depuis l’an 40!

Today’s amuse-gueule is a dish in its own right that amuses the mouth, fools your appetite and makes you want to start on the first course. Small, tasty, full of flavours and maybe a bit out of the ordinary.

We use a traditional coddler for this amuse-gueule, but you could also use a small ramequin. No spoon, please.

Wine Pairing

Typically the amuse-gueule is combined with your aperitif. We combined this amuse gueule with a glass of German Sekt, to be more precise with a glass of Reichsrat von Buhl – Pfalz – Sekt – Spätburgunder Brut rosé 2016, which is a superb pale pink wine, made from 100% Pinot Noir and produced by one of the leading wineries in Germany. Think red berries, brioche, a delicate texture with a nice mousse, fresh acidity and a long-lasting aftertaste.

What You Need (for 4)

  • One Egg
  • Four Medium Sized Raw Prawns
  • 75 grams Spinach
  • ½ Shallot
  • A Generous Tablespoon of Crème Fraiche
  • Dill
  • Blue Cheese
  • Chives
  • 4 Edible flowers

What You Do

Start by cleaning the prawns, removing the head, the shell and the vein. We used Argentine red shrimps. The meat is fairly soft and they become beautifully red when cooked. Fry the shrimps is some olive oil for 3 minutes. Remove the shrimps from the pan, set aside and let cool. Gently fry the shallot in the same pan for 10 minutes until glazed. Remove from the pan and let cool. In a different pan quickly cook the (dry and clean) spinach in some olive oil. Keep stirring! Drain if so required, set aside and let cool.
Cut the prawns in smaller bits. Chop the spinach using a large knife. Whisk the egg until completely smooth. Now add the (cool) bits of prawn, the spinach and the shallot. Whisk with a spoon. Add the Crème Fraiche. Add some chopped dill (depending on your taste), a bit of blue cheese (not too much, just to add a dimension to the dish) and a generous amount of chives. Mix. Coat the coddlers or ramequins with butter. Add the mixture to the coddlers or ramequins. Heat your oven to 170° Celsius (or 340° Fahrenheit). Place the coddlers or ramequins in a shallow dish. Add boiling water up to 2/3 of the height of the coddler or ramequin. Close the oven and reduce the temperature to 120° Celsius (or 250° Fahrenheit). After 30 minutes au bain marie your amuse-gueule should be ready. Test with a needle. Let cool.
If using a coddler, remove and dry the lid, add the flower and close.

Amuse-Gueule © cadwu
Amuse-Gueule © cadwu