17 June 2014

Mesmerized by Spot Prawns with Sorrel Aioli from Cuisine du Terroir Dinner

Court Bouillon Poached Spot Prawns with Sorrel Aioli
Here in the interior of British Columbia we herald in Spring with tender local asparagus, freshly shelled peas, and crimson stalks of rhubarb but as we usher in the warmer weather and move into the "dog days of summer" we have dreams of sharing a plethora of local bounty at sun-dappled long table dinners with kindred spirits. We headed on our first adventure of the season to one of the sold out Cuisine du Terroir dinners at God's Mountain Estate in Penticton. "Close your eyes and envision one long communal table, laid out under the stars, on a secluded bluff overlooking one of the oldest Riesling vineyards in the Valley and the shimmering Skaha Lake. In the background, a rambling, whitewashed bed and breakfast full of nooks, crannies, roofless rooms and stuffed armadillos that could be taken straight out of my photo album of a timeless trip to Santorini."

Joy Road Catering Cuisine du Terroir dinner at Gods Mountain
A few times during the season we make the pilgrimage to these unique multi-coursed dinners. Based on a seasonal theme they unite curious diners from all over the world as well as local epicureans like myself. I was seated with new found friends from the coast and local winemakers from the area as well as our special guests of honour Jon and Anne-Marie Crofts of Codfathers Seafood in my hometown. The evening included a local "champagne" Blue Mountain Brut reception and a carefully chosen, local wine pairing with each course. On the table, homemade olive fougasse began the conversation. We started our stunning menu with spot prawns lightly poached in court bouillon with sorrel aioli and baby Spring vegetables and served with Joie Farms "en Famille" Gew├╝rztraminer. This was followed by a stunning Spot Prawn Bisque with Brandy and Truffle Cream paired with Pentage Gamay Noir.  Next came "the parade of the paella." The paella was cooked over charcoal with copious amounts of spot prawns, mussels, and Cam and Dana's house-cured chorizo with roasted red pepper and espelette soffrito all paired with a beautiful salad from their garden. For dessert we savoured strawberries macerated in wild rose syrup with a local honey panna cotta. The perfect light ending to a dinner partially served family style where the table was groaning with the edible bounty of our region.

Joy Road Catering Cuisine du Terroir dinner at Gods Mountain
The theme of the dinner was the Spot Prawn as you may have already gathered. In the coastal waters of British Columbia nothing says Spring more than fresh live Spot Prawns. From May 1 until July 1, we have the opportunity to devour some of the freshest and best-tasting prawns in the world here in British Columbia. Our local fishmongers venture out on the coastal waters and deliver their seasonal catch alive back to their shop 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!!!! Huge, luscious BC 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. 
Spot Prawns;Paella with Spot Prawns, Mussels and House Cured Chorizo; more 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. Just look at the size of them!!!

Blue Mountain Brut; Court Bouillon Poached Prawns with Spring Vegetables and Sorrel Aioli; Local Honey Panna Cotta with Strawberries Macerated in Wild Rose Syrup
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. I agree with Mr Feenie when 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." As you know simple does not need to equal unsophisticated.

Sourcing and showcasing the bounty of the Okanagan is a way of life for Cameron Smith and Dana Ewart, chefs and owners of Joy Road Catering as they host these ethereal mountain top outdoor dining experiences that begin in May and run through till Thanksgiving. For the couple creating this long table Cuisine du Terroir dinner concept in the Okanagan Valley meant leaving their high-profile culinary posts at restaurants in Montreal and Toronto and getting  back to the land. They say, "The most direct translation of this concept is “food of the earth”. Terroir is a French term used to describe the unique flavour imparted to food or drink by a region’s specific climate, soil, weather and growing conditions. We chose “Cuisine du Terroir” as our concept for Joy Road Catering because to us it means food with a strong sense of place." 

In speaking with the young couple their passion is contagious and you understand the devotion the pair have to fresh food and local ingredients. Cam says,  “The immediacy of the cooking experience here is unparalleled. I go to the farmers’ market that morning and it’s on your plate that evening.” Nothing is more intimate, or more effective at breaking down  barriers, than sharing a meal together family style. When you have like-minded people from multiple countries breaking bread at the same table magic happens!!!!!! It makes me believe the hype and the Okanagan Valley is now a destination:D

The parade of the paella
The memory of this meal lives on in my own kitchen as I try and recreate the first course using spot prawns and freshly plucked sorrel and chives directly from my friend Dina of Olive Oil and Lemons rooftop herb gardens. French sorrel is a green and leafy herb that has an unusual flavour. Its peppery quality will remind you of arugula but its tart acidity is like fresh lemon juice. It’s a pretty versatile herb and a few leaves can be tossed into a salad, used in sandwiches, or in this case, mixed into an aioli. 

This sauce uses that intense lemony flavour of sorrel to it’s advantage. I used it on some salmon burgers also but feel free to use it in any way you like: on grilled corn, over an omelet, with mussels, spooned over fresh tomatoes . . .let your imagination be your guide.

My dish was more primal than sophisticated requiring you to get in there with your fingers and peel the prawns. A little twist, peel back the shell and I was 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.

**Lightly Poached Court Bouillon Spot Prawns with Sorrel Aioli**

Court Bouillon Prawns:

10 cups cold water
2 medium carrots, peeled and quartered
2 stalks celery, quartered
1 large onion, quartered
1 head garlic, halved
1 lemon, halved
1/2 bunch parsley
5 sprigs fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pound medium (26-30 per pound) shrimp, shell on
Ice for an ice bath

Sorrel Aioli

½ cup prepared or homemade mayonnaise
¾ cup chopped sorrel-sheep, wood, mountain or garden sorrel
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon, dill, or fennel fronds
1 small clove garlic, mashed or finely grated
2 tablespoons minced shallots
pinch salt

Make Court Bouillon: Put the water, chopped vegetables, and herbs into a pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat to a simmer, set a cover on top slightly ajar, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Poach Prawns: Drop the clean shrimp into the liquid and turn off the heat. Cook the shrimp, stirring occasionally, until they curl and turn pink, about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 minutes (shrimp for cocktails should be cooked a little firmer than for hot dishes). Remove shrimp with a spider from the pot directly into an ice bath to chill.

For Aioli: Add all ingredients to the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until you have a smooth, evenly green consistency.

Serve with 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. Best Blogger Tips


  1. What a fabulous event! I looks like you had a wonderful time there...

    A wonderful recipe. Those shrimps and the aïoli must taste heavenly.



  2. Sounds like another awesome evening on God's Mountain. I would love to have tasted that paella!

  3. My mouth waters ... but, alas, I never see spot prawns or sorrel in these parts. Sad face.

  4. What a fantastic experience and wonderful memory, Val. I just love these amazing food adventures you have. :-)

  5. The prawns are awesome and I totally agree with the chef - simpler is better when it comes to seafood. Fabulous photos Val.

  6. The only prawns I'll eat. Love local spot prawns. But a beautiful picture.

  7. Wow! That looks fabulous, Val. Love the idea of the sorrel aioli....I've made sorrel soup and thought it was delicious. Your dish may look simple, but oh those flavors! The paella looks to die for. Would love to have joined you! :)

  8. Oh Val, coming to your blog reminds me I need to get my fancy recipes going again--I miss doing it. You always have such gorgeous photos, but more importantly such delectable recipes. xoxo!

  9. Looks like a summer-dream-come-true, the kind we all dream of when the cold winds blow. Love your prawns. I haven't used sorrel but will add that to my herb garden.

  10. What a lovely event! You are so lucky to have such wonderful seafood available to you in the PNW! The aioli sounds wonderful.

  11. Such a beautiful event to attend and enjoy! Love the photos, Val . . . so professional. The sorrel aioli is something that I'd like to make . . . or any aioli for that matter too! Have a fabulous weekend, Val!

  12. How fun Val. Great write-up. The images are gorgeous as well. We are lucky to have Joy Road here in the Okanagan. Makes life here so much more interesting. We are off to another Joy Road dinner tonight, featuring a local farm. Works with my vegetarian palate.

  13. Oh this reminds me that I truly miss prawns. My mum used to cook them every now and then. Since I left home I rarely cook fish anymore, I should get back in action!


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