1 July 2013

The Spot Prawn Season Has Ended, But, We Can Still Enjoy Them With a Pernod Cream Sauce and Memories of a Festival

Spot Prawn Pasta with Pernod Cream Sauce
Here in the interior we herald in Spring with tender local asparagus, freshly shelled peas, and crimson stalks of rhubarb but on the coastal waters of British Columbia nothing says Spring more than fresh live Spot Prawns. We have the opportunity to devour some of the freshest and best-tasting prawns in the world here in British Columbia in season which starts in May and lasts approximately six to eight weeks. The season is now over but rest assured I have plenty of spot prawns in the freezer ready to go at a moments notice.  Huge, luscious British Columbia spot prawns are one of the most tantalizing things to be found in the waters around Vancouver.  Sweet, firm, peachy-pink and tender, the prawns are sustainably harvested by local fishermen, which means we get to enjoy eating them and feel OK about it too.

Early dawn in and around Vancouver Island the traps that have been out all night are collected. By two in the afternoon, the fishermen arrive at Granville Island, sell their catch right off the boat, and deliver the rest to market. Our own local fishmongers venture out on the coastal waters and deliver their seasonal catch alive back to their shops for sale in my interior hometown. The only way to get them fresher is to live right on the coast and lay traps yourself. Spot Prawns are like gold!!!! 

Spot Prawns
I am very much in support of sustainable fishing. Spot prawn fishermen along the B.C. coast use baited traps on long lines attached to buoys. The number of other species that inadvertently end up in these prawn traps is relatively low. This type of fishing involves a relatively low amount of habitat damage. The great thing about spot prawns is that they are so well regulated that the stocks are constantly repopulating, and prawn lovers can feast without feeling the least bit guilty. 

Over the years I have tried my Spot Prawns several ways. Each year at the start of the season I gravitate to a simple garlic butter sauteed version from Canadian chef Robert Feenie of Lumiere fame that can be found below. He says, "I have learned over the years that, when it comes to cooking seafood, simple is always best; the last thing you want to do is overcomplicate a seafood dish. You don't want to overpower the prawns' indescribable sweetness - which is the best thing about them." 

Spot Prawns are natural fast food. If you choose to boil them they cook in two minutes in a pot of boiling water. Enjoy their succulent meat alone or with a dipping sauce of your choice.  After a glass of wine I got over my fear of eating things with their heads on years ago...wink...wink.  A little twist, peel back the shell and you are taken away to the sun-baked shore. The meat is intensely sweet and tender, without even a hint of fishiness when eaten so fresh.  A loaf of crusty bread to sop up all the juices, plenty of napkins and the ability to lick your fingers and what more could you ask for? Maybe perhaps to have the season last for more than eight weeks! Keep it simple and buy a ton of fresh prawns while they're here.

While exquisite in the dish below, they’re so flavourful that I also encourage you to try them prepared simply. Grill them on skewers, boil them briefly with a bit of salt, or pan-fry in olive oil. 

Creating Spot Prawn Roll
A few weekends ago here in the Okanagan Valley we were lucky to attend the Okanagan's 3rd Annual B.C. Spot Prawn Festival which is always an overwhelming success. This year the extravaganza was held on the largest lakeside outdoor patio at Manteo Resort’s new restaurant  Smack DAB . We enjoyed an afternoon of award-winning local Okanagan wines paired with delicious spot prawn creations from Okanagan chefs as they battled to win the coveted title of 'Best Spot Prawn Dish.' 

Eleven well-noted restaurant stations  prepared their unique spot prawn dishes paired with one of 11 local wine (or beer). As guests we meandered under the Okanagan sunshine (with the threat of rain), glass in hand, from station to station to taste each chef’s unique twist on this sweet prawn while "schmoozing" with our fellow local food enthusiasts and friends.

Kelowna devoured more than 300+ pounds of Spot Prawns shipped in from the coast in just over an hour.  Proceeds from the event go to Ocean Wise, a Vancouver Aquarium program to ensure only sustainably-caught seafood is served across the province. This festival in the valley mimics the festival that has been held in Vancouver for the past 7 years with resounding success.

The Okanagan supports the British Columbia Spot Prawn fishermen by celebrating the local spot prawn harvest season. Wild BC Spot Prawns are a delicacy known around the world for their sweet, delicate flavour and firm texture. Ninety percent of BC’s commercial catch is exported to Asia. The remaining however, are available to be enjoyed fresh in local British Columbia restaurants and celebrations during the fishing season!

Jon Crofts of Codfathers and Chef Robert Clark Representing Oceanwise

Huge, luscious BC spot prawns are one of the most tantalizing things to be found in the waters around Vancouver. This means we are able to enjoy eating them into summer and still feel good about it. With the window of opportunity to enjoy this delicacy being relatively short, rest assured we have rolled up our sleeves and have feasted on local Spot Prawns often. The freezer also comes in handy to extend the season.

Each year I try a new recipe. A while back I went to a book signing and tried a Pernod Shrimp dish from local chef Ricardo of Ricardo's Mediterranean Kitchen in Lake Country. I was hooked! Although I do not have ...recipe I came up with my own to combine with pasta. It’s the use of Pernod in this recipe that knocks this dish’s flavours out of the park. This is because tomatoes contain flavour compounds that are alcohol-soluble, meaning they are only released when mixed with alcohol. The addition of Pernod (an Italian anise-flavoured liquor) not only adds a new dimension of flavour, it also enhances the other flavours present.

**Spot Prawn Pasta with Pernod Cream Sauce**

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound peeled large shrimp
3 large garlic cloves, forced through a garlic press
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
3 tablespoons Pernod (you can substitute any anise-flavoured liqueur such as ouzo or sambucca)
1 (14- to 15-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 pound spaghetti or tagliatelle

Heat oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then cook shrimp and garlic with oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, turning once, until golden, about 2 minutes total. Stir in vermouth and tomatoes, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet. Add cream and briskly simmer until sauce has thickened slightly, about 1 minute. Stir in lemon juice.

Meanwhile, cook capellini in a pasta pot of boiling salted water (3 tablespoons salt for 6 quarts water) until al dente. Reserve 1 cup pasta-cooking water, then drain pasta.

Serve immediately, topped with shrimp and sauce. Thin with some of reserved water if necessary.

You may also enjoy!!!

Zucchini Risotto with Saffron and Spot Prawns
Grilled Spot Prawns with Lemon Fennel and Arugula Salad 
Spot Prawns with Tomato, Feta and Ouzo with Skordalia
Sautéed Spot Prawns with Garlic, Jalapenos and Spicy Mayo
Grilled Spot Prawns with Finger Limes and Basil - Saveur
12 Spot Prawn Recipes from Vancouver Chefs
Poached BC Spot Prawns Spring Pea Soup
Green Goddess Spot Prawns

You are reading this post on More Than Burnt Toast at http://morethanburnttoast.blogspot.com. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to the author/owner of More Than Burnt Toast. All rights reserved by Valerie Harrison.
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  1. A delicious sauce and wonderful dish!



  2. Delicious!
    I didn't get the chance to go to the fest but next year!
    Spot prawns and oysters are my two favourites when I go to the coast.


  3. Fab review and some excellent info on spot prawns. I also love the idea of the Pernod sauce. That's very special x

  4. These babies are beautiful. Nothing beats shrimp fresh from the boat. We don't have spot prawns, but I would like to try Gulf Coast shrimp in this recipe. Love the anise flavor Pernod adds to seafood.

  5. Oh how lovely! I adore prawns and they are practically an Australian institution. :-) This recipe sounds amazing, Val, and I love your photos of this event. :-)

  6. Oh, fresh prawns, lucky you! The sauce sounds delicious, perfect for a great dish!

  7. I love fresh, briny shrimp (or prawns, as you call them). Pernod is so elegant, I love that too!

  8. Ooo that cream sauce is certainly something I need in my life!

  9. Oh, this dish looks heavenly, Val! I have spent many hours on various beaches in the Gulf Islands cooking prawns and crab after catching them from the boat. You're right - nothing beats BC spot prawns! This is a must try recipe and very soon. Thanks for sharing.

  10. What an interesting post. Thank you for sharing!

    This dish looks heavenly. I love seafood, it's a rare treat in our house.


  11. I've never had spot prawns, and I'd sure love to. That sauce sounds decadent and delicious.

  12. You have me at pernod cream sauce! Those prawns look so fresh and good!

  13. Excellent dish, I love the shrimp with ouzo sauce.

  14. My mouth is seriously watering after reading your fabulous and oh so descriptive post- yum! Thanks for sharing this snapshot of life in BC, fascinating.

  15. I remember how crazy Spot Prawn season was in Comox. People would line up at the marina. I miss BC :)

  16. Bravo...I love your blog, je viens juste de le découvrir, merci.


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