Marinating shrimp in a little vodka adds sweetness to the shrimp and improves their flavor. The following recipe has been influenced by the cuisines of Southeast Asia, where curry powder is often mixed with coconut milk to give richness to a finished dish. Serve with white rice.
On Cleaning Shrimp
In order to make frozen shrimp taste better, I refresh them by cleaning them with salt and washing them in lots of water before cooking. Peel and devein the raw shrimp. Place them in a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt. Toss them well in the salt and quickly rub it in with your fingers so that it coats the shrimp. Place the bowl under a faucet and immediately rinse them well, running cold water over them until the water becomes clear and all the salt has been washed away.—Susanna Foo
For the curry sauce
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tablespoons corn oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon peeled, grated gingerroot
1 tablespoon curry powder (preferably Madras)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
Dash of Tabasco sauce
2 cups chicken stock
About 1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt (optional)
For the prawns
2 pounds prawns or large shrimp (about 36 shrimp), peeled, deveined and cleaned with salt (see above)
2 tablespoons vodka
1 large egg white, lightly beaten
2 large firm, ripe pears (any kind)
2 cups water
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup corn oil
3 shallots, minced
1 tablespoonpeeled, julienned gingerroot
1 tablespoon julienned lemon zest
1 cup curry sauce (above)
Coarse or kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup toasted almond slices (see Note)
Make the curry sauce
1. Mix the cornstarch and coconut milk in a small bowl; set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, garlic and gingerroot. Cook over high heat until the onion is golden, about 4 minutes. Add the curry powder, white pepper, and Tabasco. Cook over high heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the stock and the coconut milk mixture. Mix well and cook over low heat for 20 minutes, or until the cornstarch no longer has a raw taste and the sauce is lightly thickened. Remove from the heat and cool. When cool, purée the sauce in a blender or a food processor. Taste to correct the seasonings, adding the salt if needed. Note: The sauce can be prepared 3 to 4 days in advance, covered and refrigerated.
Prepare the prawns
1. Pat the shrimp dry. Mix the vodka and the beaten egg white in a large bowl, add the shrimp and toss to combine. Marinate for 20 minutes at room temperature, turning occasionally; drain. Set aside.
2. Peel the pears, cut in half lengthwise and remove the cores. Cut each pear half into 6 to 8 thin slices and place in a small bowl.
3. Mix the water and lemon juice and pour over the pears; let steep for 5 minutes. Transfer the pears and all the liquid to a large saucepan. Bring the liquid to a boll. Cover and poach the pears for about 3 minutes, or until they are just tender. Remove from the heat, drain and set aside.
4. Heat the oil in a large skillet until it is hot but not smoking. Add the shrimp and cook in 2 batches, stirring occasionally, until they just turn pink, about 3 minutes.
5. Remove from the skillet with a slotted spoon and set aside. Repeat with the remaining shrimp. Remove and discard all but 2 tablespoons of oil from the pan. Add the shallots, gingerroot and lemon zest to the skillet. Cook for 2 minutes, stirring, until the shallots are golden.
6. Add the curry sauce and the poached pear slices. Bring the sauce to a boil over high heat. Add the shrimp and cook for 2 minutes, tossing in the sauce until they are hot and well coated. Remove from the heat and add salt and pepper to taste.
7. Remove the shrimp and pears with a slotted spoon and divide among 6 plates. Top with any sauce remaining in the skillet. Sprinkle with the toasted almonds and serve.
Note: To toast the almonds preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the almonds on a dry baking sheet and toast, stirring occasionally, for about 4 to 5 minutes, until they have turned light brown and smell fragrant.
Recipe © 1995 Susanna Foo. All rights reserved.