Roasting Is The Key To A Better Prawn Cocktail

Roasting Is The Key To A Better Prawn Cocktail

I can’t think of a prawn dish I don’t enjoy, but the rate with which I inhale a prawn cocktail is alarming. There are only two components to the dish — prawn and sauce — so making a good prawn cocktail is all about maximizing the flavour in each. To do this, you’ll need to do a bit of roasting (and brining).

[referenced url=”” thumb=”” title=”Sous Vide Prawns Are Almost Impossible To Mess Up” excerpt=”Hello friends, and welcome back to Will It Sous Vide?, the column where I make things with my immersion circulator. This week we’re cooking a tasty little crustacean – the prawn – in a myriad of ways.”]

Based on Alton Brown’s recipe, we take a two-pronged approach to the prawn. To ensure the sea bugs are juicy and well seasoned, they spend a bit of time in a flavorful brine of sugar, salt, lemon zest, and horseradish. After that, they get roasted on a scorching hot pan — shells still on — for a plump, peel-and-eat crustacean with a ton of fresh flavour. But that’s not where the roasting ends. The real secret to this cocktail, and to the sauce specifically, is roasted ginger.

You see, you can only add so much horseradish — and I add a quarter a cup — before it starts to obscure the other flavours. Adding roasted ginger brings a different kind of heat, while at the same time providing a bit of depth and a toasty caramelised sweetness. It is very good. To make this icon of an appetizer (that I have eaten as a meal), you will need:

  • 500 grams of fresh prawns

  • 1 1/2 cups water

  • 1/4 cup sugar

  • 1/4 cup salt

  • The zest of 1 small lemon

  • 10 grams of fresh horseradish, peeled and sliced into ribbons with a vegetable peeler

  • 1 1/2 cups of ice

  • 16 grams of unpeeled fresh ginger

  • 3/4 cups Heinz ketchup

  • 1 cup Heinz chilli sauce

  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish

  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

  • Fresh pepper to taste

Turn on your broiler and place the ginger directly on the top rack. Roast until there are dark brown spots on both sides, which should take about 45 minutes, flipping once halfway through. While that’s roasting, make the brine. Combine the water, sugar, salt, zest, and fresh horseradish in a small pot, then bring it to a boil. Once it starts boiling and all the sugar and salt has dissolved, take it off the heat and add the ice. Transfer the brine to a bowl, cover, and set in the fridge while you clean the prawn.

Clean each prawn by making an incision with a sharp knife about halfway into the body, down its back all the way to the tail. Remove the dark vein, give it a rinse, and repeat with the next prawn. Once the prawn are all clean, place them in the brine and let them all hang out in the fridge for 25 minutes.

While those babies are brining, make your sauce. Peel the roasted ginger — most of the skin should pull right off, but you’ll have to cut off tough ends — and chop it roughly. Add it to the bowl of a food processor, and pulse it to chop it as finely as you can. Add about half the ketchup, process to combine, and scrape it into a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl, stir to combine, then cover and set in the fridge.

By now your prawns should be brined. Take them out of the liquid and let them dry on paper towels. In the meantime, pop a sheet pan in the oven and let it heat under the hot broiler for five minutes. Toss the the prawns in a bowl with a tablespoon of olive oil and as much fresh pepper as you like. Open the oven, lay the prawns out in a single layer, and let cook under the broiler for three minutes.

Flip the prawns, let ‘em cook about a minute and a half more, and remove them from the oven and transfer them to chilled vessel of some sort. (A big metal bowl works well.) Refrigerate them until they’re completely cold, then serve with your delicious, crazy flavorful cocktail sauce.

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