Last time, I promised you guys (edible) punchy, summery heat – with a pinch of the great, wide world on top. And spicy, exciting recipes hinting at near and far destinations is exactly what I’ll deliver~! Today’s recipe was, in parts… a surprise, to say the least. A delicious little surprise that crept up on me on the back of a grocery shopping trip I went on before getting the necessary amounts of caffeine needed to function properly into my system. My efforts were further hampered by the fact that, in my severe state of pre-coffee-zombiedom, I left my grocery list behind along with my memory of ever writing one.
I did recall a few key points, but instead of Dorado, Artichokes and Horseradish, I returned with a bagful of near-misses: Prawns, Potatoes and Wasabi. How’s that for throwing yourself a curveball… Once I had my caffeine levels up to par later that day, I decided not to give into the urge to either call it a day or go on a second shopping tour and take up the challenge instead. The result: a very delicious, surprisingly well-balanced fingerfoody morsel that made Japan and the Provence meet on a plate (filled with more or less elegantly aioli-diving prawns. I had fun, what can I say~).
The Lemon Confit Potatoes
I’ve been tripping over Confit veggies left, right and center whenever I opened one of my french, spanish or portugese cookbooks – usually in a meaty context along the lines of “stick the veggies in with the meat” – and I always wanted to give it a try. When I stumbled across a handwritten note about a Moroccan or Tunisian recipe I had apparently seen on TV years ago, involving “woody vegetables like artichokes”, lemons, lots of oil and the hint to “keep oil, brush fish with it later” in one of my stacks of kitchen post-its, I took the liberty of taking a classic Chicken Confit recipe from a french book, grab some vegetables and go to town. After a few experiments, this one (originally tried, tested and enjoyed with Artichoke hearts) came out on top. So, surprise nr.1 after that decaffeinated grocery trip: Potatoes work SO well, I can’t believe I danced around with beets, artichokes, leeks, parsnips and the likes before without even giving potatoes a thought… Anyways, here we go~
600g Fingerling Potatoes
1 Tbsp of Mixed Peppercorns – I give my trusty peppermill, always containing black, red, white, green, pink berries, a couple of szechuan and long peppers, a turn upside-down for occasions like this.
1 Tbsp of Coarse Sea Salt
2 Heads of Garlic, broken into cloves, cloves peeled
2-3 Unwaxed Lemons, sliced into disks
1 Salt Lemon, quartered
1 Sprig of Rosemary
2 Bay Leaves
1 Star Anise
3 Leafy Sprigs of Thyme
500-600ml High Quality Sunflower or Rapeseed Oil – enough to cover the solids in your pot
Alt: Butter or Ghee. Lots of it, enough to cover the potatoes in your pot once it’s melted – Be very mindful of the temperrature with this option.
Alt for the Wicked: Duck Fat – bit hard to get unless you actually a) are in the process of Confit’ing a duck anyways or b) have a really good butcher nearby.
Just for the record: Usually, any meat/veg “Confit” is slow-cooked at very low heat in the oven. Oh and despite sounding rather chef’y, it’s one of the easiest and safest methods to get a whole meal (and then some, I’ll get to that in two shakes of a lamb’s tail) out of the oven in one fell swoop. Here’s what I do to get the same result in my oven-less kitchen:
1) Pour the oil into a pot large enough to accommodate the whole gang of ingredients listed above.
2) Add the herbs, salt, garlic and peppercorns and bring the oil to a very low simmer at 90°C on medium-low heat – this usually takes about 15 mins.
3) Add the potatoes and pop on the lid.
4) Allow the lot to gently simmer away for about 1 hr until the usual potato-knife test says they’re done.
5) If you’re not on first-name basis with your stove, keep a close eye on it and make sure the liquids don’t start to boil. Lift the lid off until they settle down if the bubbles get too excited for comfort.
6) Once the spuds are done, transfer them to a plate lined with paper towels and allow them to cool off.
7) Here’s the “and then some” I mentioned: collect the garlic cloves, pop them into a sealable glass jar and pour just enough of the oil on top to cover them. Use at your earliest convenience~ If you keep them covered with oil, they’re basically good for a couple of years. Why you would wait that long, could raise some eyebrows, though~
8) “And then some” goodie number two: pour the remaining oil through a fine sieve to remove the herbs, lemons and their friends and transfer it into tightly sealable bottle or jar. This infused oil is an absolutely wonderful beginning of any dressing or marinade. Like most infused oils, it’s best used within 1-2 weeks
Three treats for “throw everything into a pot and wait for an hour” – not bad, don’t you think~?
The Garlic & Wasabi Mayo aka Wasabi Aioli
3 Very fresh, Organic Egg Yolks, at room temperature
1 Tbsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Wasabi Paste – originally: Horseradish. Surprise number two that day: Wasabi actually works wonders if you’re, like me, a fan of the signature Horseradish-prickle behind your sinuses. Flavor-wise it’s a tad stronger than regular horseradish, but not as impactful as you might expect. Feel free to add more if you like the punch~
4 Cloves of Garlic, finely chopped – in case you’re not working WAY in advance, use some of the cloves simmered to creamy deliciousness in the previous step
½ Unwaxed Lemon, Juice and Zest
150ml of the Lemony Poaching Oil – once its cooled off completely
150ml Extra Virgin Olive Oil
A generous Pinch each of Sea Salt and Black Pepper
1 Tsp Fresh Rosemary Needles, finely chopped – Surprise number three: Yes, rosemary and wasabi work! At least in a garlicky Aioli-kind of context~
Alt: Lemon Thyme, Fresh Coriander or even Shredded Nori, in case Rosemary sounds just too weird next to Wasabi. Both tried, tested and approved on other occasions~
1) Pick your weapon of choice, wrist- or electrical powered whisks and be prepared to use either on medium speed for quite some time.
2) Place the egg yolks in a mixing bowl and add the dijon mustard, garlic, wasabi, lemon zest and lemon juice.
3) Whisk – and keep whisking – while slowly, steadily drizzling in the oils.
4) Once the mayonnaise-with-a-twist starts to bind, season it with salt and pepper – while keeping up the whisking routine, of course.
5) Keep at it until the mixture comes together in a thick, silky smooth and glossy Aioli.
6) Emergency Tip: if the Aioli splits on you, add a few drops of cold water, turn the speed up to high or grab a stick-blender and blitz it back into submission~
7) Transfer the pillowy Aioli into bowl, and sprinkle the top with the chopped rosemary.
The Herby Prawns
So, the numbers listed here are flexible – assuming you’re going for my whimsical (or downright silly? the jury’s still out on that one~) Diving Prawn Style of presenting them, you’ll need to match the numbers of prawns and potatoes. Here’s what else you need:
As many Black Tiger or King Prawns as there are potatoes (+2 more for safety), shelled and cleaned with the tails still on
1 Tbsp of the Lemony Potato Oil / per batch of 8 prawns
1 Tsp Sea Salt / per batch of 8 prawns
1 Tsp Cayenne Pepper / per batch of 8 prawns
1 Tsp Fresh or Dried Thyme Leaves / per batch of 8 prawns
½ Tsp Dried Marjory / per batch of 8 prawns
1 Sprig of Dried Oregano / per batch of 8 prawns
1 Clove of Garlic, bashed / per batch of 8 prawns
25g Butter to gloss things over in the pan
1) Place all of the ingredients minus the prawns and butter in a mixing bowl and give them a good whisk.
2) Add the prawns, gently turn them over in the marinade and cover them with a sheet of clingfilm once you’re done.
3) Marinade the for anythig between 30 mins and overnight, depending on how far ahead you’re planning/prepping.
4) Once showtime is drawing close, fire up a wide, heavy-based pan on medium heat and add the butter.
5) Fry the prawns for 1-2 mins on both sides until they’re succulent and tender.
6) Swirl the remaing marinade into the pan and keep them warm for just a bit longer.
Assembling the Dish
The Lemon Confit Potatoes
The Garlic & Wasabi Aioli
The Herby Prawns
Opt: Salad Beds, drizzled with a few drops of the Infused Oil
Fleur de Sel
1) Depending on the size and/or shape of your potatoes, grab a teaspoon, a sharp-tipped knife or, which is what I always use, an apple-coring knife.
2) Pick a test-prawn and hold it to a test-potato to guesstimate if a) your mission is doomed to begin with or b) how wide and deep a tunnel into the spud would have to be to hold the prawn.
3) If the prawns aren’t disproportionally large, use the device of your choice to carve a hole/tunnel about 2/3 to ¾ into the potato – slightly deeper and wider than necessary for the prawn.
4) If you’re faced either with very large prawns or very small potatoes, slice the potatoes in halves and gently hollow them out in a bowl-sort of way.
5) Either way, don’t forget to take off just a little on the outside of the potato to give it a solid “foot”/surface to stand on. The cut-outs and -offs are a great addition to a salad next day or even on top of the deco-salad I listed as an option above. Also, they’re a great start of a potato purée if you’re looking a substantial pile.
6) Arrange the potatoes evenly spaced on a large board or plate as you go – leave enough space between for your hands, spoons filled with Aioli, prawn-tails sticking out everywhere and related potential nervous breakdowns. I won’t even mention piping-bags at this point because that’s reason enough for me to have myself one of those.
7) If you don’t feel like you’ve got boxing gloves on when wielding a tool-I-will-not-name, feel free to use one – otherwise use a teaspoon to drip a bit of aioli into each hollowed-out potato.
8) Carefully slide a prawn into each opening until the first hint of Aioli starts peeking out around the rim.
9) As soon as you’re done, sprinkle the Divers with Fleur de Sel flakes, serve them up on a large platter – with or without the aforementioned salad around them – with the remaining Aioli preferably divvied into individual bowls! There might be dip-hoggers around~!