Alaskan Spot Prawns with Saffron Couscous and Ginger Vinaigrette

June 1, 2007

Alaskan Spot Prawns with Saffron Couscous and Ginger Vinaigrette
Varietal: Gewürztraminer

Serves 4

Alaskan spot prawns are the Northwest’s answer to East Coast lobster, but I much prefer the small, sweet nubbins of flesh from the Pacific Coast. They’re addictive! In the recipe that follows, local “spots” are simply boiled in the shell (for extra flavor), removed from their shells, then arranged over a bed of golden couscous (perhaps the worlds’ most simple-to-make side dish) perfumed with musky saffron. The dish is drizzled with a light, refreshing ginger vinaigrette that pairs perfectly with the spicy notes in a good Northwest Gewürztraminer. Chopped mint and cilantro add the final intriguing touches.

1 1/2 pounds Alaskan spot prawns, rinsed, patted dry, and cut up the back with kitchen shears
1 1/4 cups water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup couscous
Ginger Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Chopped mint, for garnish
Chopped cilantro, for garnish

1. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the spot prawns, cover, and let the shellfish sit in the water until they turn pink and their tails just begin to curl. Drain immediately. When cool enough to handle, remove the shells and discard. Return the prawns to the saucepan (off the heat), cover, and reserve.
2. Meanwhile, bring the 1 1/4 cups water, the butter, salt, saffron, and white pepper to a boil in a small saucepan and stir well. Add the couscous and stir well. Cover the pan, remove from the heat, and let stand 5 minutes, or until the couscous is tender and the liquid is absorbed. Break up the couscous with a fork, cover, and reserve.
3. To serve, divide the couscous among four dinner plates. Arrange the spot prawns around the couscous, then drizzle the couscous and shellfish with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with mint and cilantro.

Ginger Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
2 tablespoons canola, almond, or grapeseed oil

1. Place the rice vinegar, lime juice, honey, fresh ginger, salt, and pepper in a nonreactive mixing bowl and whisk until the honey dissolves. Add the canola oil a few drops at a time, whisking well after each addition, until the vinaigrette becomes smooth and shiny (emulsifies).

Cook’s Hint: If spot prawns are unavailable, then substitute sustainably farmed shrimp. Grilled scallops or any type of firm, fleshy whitefish (such as halibut) also work well.