Friday, September 23, 2005

That Prawn Cocktail Moment


I know that we’re supposed to scoff at the prawn cocktail. As a staple ‘Abigail’s Party’ entrée, it has all the social cachet of a shell suit combined with white socks and trainers. It screams ‘70’s sophisticated cuisine: some limp prawns doused in a lurid pink sauce on a bed of lettuce. As the introduction to a meal of fillet steak and chips, followed by Black Forest gateaux, and washed down with Blue Nun Liebfraumilch, it knows no peers.

I have a problem. I LOVE prawn cocktail; I can’t get enough of the stuff. They don’t have it on menus much these days; it’s all spicy chicken wings and tex mex combos (straight out of the freezer). That doesn’t stop me. I ask if ‘chef’ can prepare it for me. I have to endure some funny looks from the waiting staff, but they usually come up with the goods.

There’s an apocryphal tale that a chef once chopped off the top of his little finger, which dropped into a large bowl of prawns awaiting cocktail preparation. He hunted in vain for the severed digit, gave up, and doused the contents of the bowl in pink gloop. I can well believe this. Who would know the difference between a prawn with a bit of shell left on and the end of a pinkie?

I’m not just nostalgic for the prawn cocktail; I miss Berni Inns as well. There are times when I can think of nothing more agreeable than to settle into a faux suede banquette and scoff the full works.

31 comments:

Sniffy said...

Prawn cocktail is good and any restaurant worth its salt will still have it on its menu - just ask Gary Rhodes. I didn't have much respect for this guy until I started to see past his stupid hair and actually listen to him enthuse about good food and its preparation - particularly good traditional British cuisine.

Question though - how do you like it prepared? Are you a traditionalist that insists on the cocktail glass, lined with iceberg lettuce leaves (with a few of the unshelved buggers hooked on the side), or are you happy to have it served on a standard plate?

garfer said...

I'm no purist. As long as the sauce isn't overpowering I'm happy. I sometimes make up my own sauce with mayonnaise and tomato ketchup, plus a squeeze of lemon. Much nicer than the crap in jars. Oh, and there must be some brown bread and butter on the side.

Sniffy said...

Always brown bread with proper butter. That's all the sauce is though, isn't it? My sister used to work at a local hotel and she said that's how it was made, perhaps a touch of tabasco or worcester sauce would be good. And not forgetting the sprinkling of paprika.

garfer said...

Paprika is essential. The thing with making your own is that you can determine the exact level of tanginess.
Btw. Those gherkins got me going so I bought a big jar. Can't get the bastard top off.
How are the comments coming along on your 'name the little tossers' post? Line 'em all up against a wall and shoot 'em I say.

Piggy and Tazzy said...

Everyone loves prawn cocktail. I know it's shite scum food, but I like it - and I don't care where the lettuce is. Have to agree that it's not the same with the paprika too.

I sorta like Gary Rhodes, Tina but he's still a bit of a wanker.

Gherkins? Yum!

suburban wonder said...

In the US, shrimp cocktail is always served around a martini glass, and the sauce is ketchup, horseradish, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, and a healthy squeeze of lemon.

It's still a classic.

pissoff said...

You don't know prawns until I've cooked you up a pot. As for the US ketchup seafood sauce...it sucks. Can't stand it. Prefer the English method.

S.I.D. said...

Dublin Bay Prawns are massive. Thanks Sellafield Nuclear Power station.

Sniffy said...

Is that an invitation, April?

pissoff said...

It's always an open invitation to you Sniff. Any time you want to come visit the Great White North my doors are open.

Wyndham said...

Prawn cocktail shoud only ever be served in a round stainless-steel container. You will find one of these in any hotel in Torquay circa 1976.

becca said...

Garf: I am also a fan of the crimson sauced crustacean.

This is THE BEST recipe for prawn cocktail I have ever had in my life.
I suggest you make the brine, its what makes it good.

32 shell-on (21 to 25 count) tiger prawn
For the brine:
1/4 cup kosher salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 cups ice
For the cocktail sauce:
1 (14 1/2-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup prepared chili sauce
4 tablespoons prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon sugar
Few grinds fresh black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
Sprinkle Old Bay seasoning (if you can get it)


Place cleaned shrimp into a bowl with brine and refrigerate mixture for 20 to 25 minutes. While shrimp are brining, place tomatoes, chili sauce, horseradish, sugar, pepper, and salt in food processor and blend until smooth. Refrigerate cocktail sauce until ready to serve.
Place a baking sheet or broiler pan under oven broiler and preheat for 5 minutes. Remove shrimp from brine and drain thoroughly. Rinse the shrimp under cold water and dry on paper towels. In a large bowl, toss shrimp with olive oil and sprinkle with Old Bay seasoning, if desired.
Place shrimp onto a sizzling sheet pan and return to broiler immediately. After 2 minutes, turn the shrimp and return them to the broiler for 1 minute. Transfer to a cold cookie sheet. Refrigerate immediately.
Once prawns have chilled, arrange with cocktail sauce in a martini glass or as desired. In the states, we leave the shells on and then put the sauce in a glass or bowl to dip the prawns in. Maybe you like it, maybe not :)

Sniffy said...

Over here, shrimps are tiny little things, prawns are bigger.

Thanks April, I'll pack my bag! Anything you want from Britain? Piccalilly?

suburban wonder said...

You can get "Jumbo Shrimp" here. How's that for an oxymoron? There's even something called a Colossal Shrimp, which come about 4 to the pound. Looks more like a langoustine to me, which I would LOVE to find but never do.

Would make more sense to call them prawns, I suppose.

garfer said...

Shrimps are small prawns. Langoustines are NOT prawns, they are related to lobsters (hence the nippy claws).
That looks like an interesting recipe Becca. Might give it a go. What is kosher salt?

Sniffy said...

I don't really understand Kosher, but it's something to do with the premises where food is prepared as well as what the food is. You can't just let a bit of the sea dry out and use that if you're Jewish, you have to do it properly. Aside from that, I'm totally ignorant of Kosher things, but some of the stuff in the Kosher aisle at Tesco looks really good (especially the pickles).

Did you know that prawns tread water in sewage outlets?

Hang on a minute! Are you allowed to eat prawns if you're jewish? I thought they weren't allowed.

garfer said...

When prawns are treading water in sewage outlets, do they wear water wings?
I thought kosher was something to to with ritaully slaughtered meat. Then again, that's probably halal.

S.I.D. said...

I think Jews can eat them. Passover the prawns please.

becca said...

We get shrimp in the gulf of mexico that are as big as the prawns out of Sainsburys here so I figured they were just another type of decopod crustacean. The Torah and the Koran both prohibit the consumption of shellfish. The Kosher salt is just more coarse than normal table salt and better to cook with IMHO. I've never even seen it here on the store shelves really. hmm. The five books of Moses (or the old testament) talks about kosher/non-kosher fish. I know there is one law about not serving and animal with a biproduct of its mother's milk. So no cheese burgers. Oy, its not kosher!

garfer said...

This is all getting very confusing.
Is Malden sea salt kosher?
Is a haddock kosher but not an Abroath smokie?
Pah! If it moves, scoff it.

Sniffy said...

Thank God for Jesus! He said (something like) no food that's given by God is unholy so you can eat what you like and you don't need pray while you slaughter it. I have a friend who's a vicar and she told me, but I can't remember the real words Jesus was supposed to have used. The upshot is that we can eat what the hell we like.

That's why people of Christian-type derivations can eat what they like, but the unsaved heathen Jewish and Muslim people can't. Like I said, I think Kosher also relates to the food preparaion area being blessed too, so that's why it includes pickles, biscuits, soft drinks, wines, etc.

Good old Jesus, that's all I can say.

garfer said...

Does that mean that I can scoff my cat? Ok, he's a bit mangy; but in an emergency?

Sniffy said...

Yeah, eat what you like, Jesus said so. I think Oscar might be a pissed off if you try, but I suppose if you're desperate for a kebab, given enough spices and herbs, he might make a decent approximation if you're pissed enough.

garfer said...

You forgot the chilli sauce. Tsk.

Sniffy said...

That goes without saying

garfer said...

Exactly.

Sniffy said...

I could just go a kebab - special mixed tikka kebab on nan from Kurry Hut- Fuckin' delish.

garfer said...

That was cruel. I am suffering deprivation and you had to stick the knife in. You are devoid of a moral concience.

Sniffy said...

It's not as if I succumbed to the temptation and got one. In fact, it's worse for me since the Kurry Hut is a mere 2 minutes' drive away - you wouldn't believe will power I have to use to resist the temptation.

Piggy and Tazzy said...

2 minute drive?

But you've just bought a bike, you lazy bitch!

I would have just phoned the order through and got some nice Indian servant-type boy to bring it to me, still piping hot, in his 1980 Austin Princess. I could even have caught a glance of his furry dice as I sent him away without a tip.

And no. I don't mean *those* furry dice.

Rowan said...

blech! finger? maybe that's why I don't eat shrimp or any of its relatives, or maybe it's cause I'm allergic, either way.