In Season Now: Spot Prawns
Pearson’s Port, Bayside Marina, at 100 E. Coast Highway, Newport Beach, 92660.
n Newport Beach, many often find themselves purchasing their seafood from their local grocery store. While that is not necessarily a bad option, there just so happens to be a better option. For the best fish, one is going to have to get on the water. Don’t worry though; you don’t need to catch the fish yourself — this process is quite effortless. Tucked next to the bridge right off of PCH and Bayside sits Pearson’s Port. Pearson’s Port is a family owned business that has been providing Newport with great seafood for 47 years. It is hard not to find yourself inspired to cook up something simple and fresh once you find yourself in their little shop floating right on the water at the end of their dock. Like any respecting fishmonger, Pearson’s varying bounty is always in season and ridiculously fresh.
One of the more sought after items to pick up from Pearson’s is their spot prawns. These insanely delicious crustaceans get any seafood lover excited. Spot prawns often find themselves being compared to lobsters due to their sweet, buttery and silky flesh. Throughout the months of March to September, one can find spot prawns from the waters of Santa Barbara all the way down to San Diego. These spot prawns are sold both domestically and internationally, wielding a premium price. Though, for those in the know, the price is highly worth it.
Insider’s Tip: When turning off of PCH onto Bayside, Pearson’s Port will be on your left, directly on the water.
As spot prawns are one of the most coveted crustaceans in West Coast waters, they tend to carry quite the following; Biologists though, are sure to point out that spot prawns are in fact not prawns (penaeidea) at all and are actually shrimp (caridea). With that being said, any way you look at it, spot prawns are incredibly delicious and have quite the cult following.
When purchasing spot prawns, it is best to buy them alive. Typically, it is ideal to buy them only hours before you plan on cooking them and making sure to keep them on ice in the fridge till they are ready for consumption. High heat cooking methods work best for these little guys, such as grilling or sautéing. While some shrimp varieties fair well for methods like boiling or steaming, spot prawns are not, and are best eaten when they are served either raw or cooked quickly and consumed right away.
Pearson’s Port Spot Prawns, Watermelon Consommé, Charred Spring Onion, Pimento Pureé and Purslane.
This recipe is super simple with just a few components that are based on simple technique. Equipment you’ll need; Heavy bottom pan, blender, fine strainer and a kitchen knife. Serves 4.
- 1 Watermelon
- 1 Lime
- 1/2 t Sea Salt
Take the watermelon rind off and discard (Find out what to do with your rind by visiting the Watermelon Board). Next, cut the watermelon into chunks suitable for your blender. Blend the watermelon until completely smooth. Portion out 3 cups of the juice and reserve the rest for another consumption (i.e. agua fresca). Add the 3 cups of watermelon juice with the juice of the lime and the sea salt. Blend again for about 30 seconds. Now is when you can taste and adjust with more lime or salt if need be; what you are looking for is a nicely balanced and slightly savory liquid. Now, you will strain the juice through a fine mesh strainer or a coffee filter. It may take a little bit of time, but at this point, it is pretty much complete.
Charred Spring Onions:
- 4-6 Spring Onions (Pearl or Cipollini Onions work as well)
- Kosher Salt
- Canola Oil
Take your best-suited pan, something along the lines of steel or cast-iron. Put pan over medium-high heat with a very light coating of canola oil. Cut your onions in half and rub with a tiny bit of oil and season with salt. Once the pan is hot and has a little whisper of smoke, place onions cut-side down in the pan. Don’t move the onions around too much as you are trying to get a nice even char on the cut side. While watching the onions, if the pan starts to smoke too much, just adjust the heat. Once the onions have reached their charred consistency, flip them over and let them cook a little longer on the other side. The goal is to have a charred edge around the onion while getting them cooked through but with still a hint of fresh bite to them. Once the onions are done, remove from the pan and let cool. Once cool, pull the onion apart into little petals and reserve till plating time.
- 2 – 2oz jars of diced Pimentos
- 1/4t Kosher Salt
- 1/4C Canola Oil
- A couple splashes of your favorite hot sauce (I prefer Harissa)
In your blender, place the contents of the two jars of pimentos, salt, oil and a couple splashes of hot sauce. Blend on low and gradually increase. Once smooth, taste the pureé. If needed, adjust with salt or hot sauce to your liking. If you have any small squeeze bottles you can pour into that, otherwise just place in a jar (the pimento jars work great).
- 4 Spot Prawns
- Sea Salt
- Canola Oil
Place a heavy bottom pan over medium-high heat. Add a thin but even coating of oil. Season prawns with salt. When the pan is nearly smoking, add your prawns, making sure not to place them too close together. If you have a lid big enough to cover your pan, it would be ideal to use it. Since the prawns are alive, they have the tendency to move and jump. The lid helps them stay contained, so your hard work does not go to waste. The prawns will cook rather quickly, approximately 2 minutes on each side.
When Prawns finish cooking, you can place them in a big bowl or smaller individual bowls. Pour in the consommé. Then take the onion petals and place throughout the dish. In the concave of each onion, place a little bit of the pimento pureé. Now finish with cleaned and picked purslane.