Spot Prawns

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LA Times food writer Russ Parsons cooks up delicious ways to prepare succulent spot prawns. His most recent book is How to Pick a Peach: The Search for Flavor from Farm to Table.

Spot Prawns Roasted in Spiced Salt
Servings 4 to 6

Note: You can find live spot prawns at Pearson's Port in Newport Harbor, Los Angeles Fish Company, Fish King in Glendale, Santa Monica Seafood, selected 99 Ranch markets and other Asian markets. You can use coarse or fine salt to roast the prawns; fine salt will form a firmer, more compact crust that will be harder to crack after roasting.

  • 2 Tablespoons whole black peppercorns
  • 6 whole allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp ground smoked paprika
  • 2 lbs spot prawns
  • 10 cups salt

1. Heat the oven to 400° and place a rack on the top third and bottom third of the oven.

2. In a spice grinder, grind the peppercorns, allspice, bay leaves, red pepper flakes and paprika into a fine powder.

3. Place the spot prawns in a large bowl, pour the spice mixture over and toss to combine. Place the salt in a separate large bowl and stir in 1 2/3 cups water so the texture is that of gritty snow.

4. Line two jellyroll pans with foil and spread some of the salt in a layer about 1/4" deep. Divide the prawns evenly between the pans, arranging them in a single layer. Mound the rest of the salt on top, covering them completely in a smooth, even layer.

5. Roast for 18 minutes until the prawns are fragrant and the meat is firm. Remove the pans from the oven and cool briefly.

6. With a sturdy metal spoon or chef's knife, chip a crack around the base of the salt crust and carefully lift off the top. Use a dry pastry brush to wipe away any salt on the surface of the prawns. Serve immediately with finger bowls for rinsing.

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