Warm Prawn Cocktail

I can’t believe I am going to suggest that you keep some prawns or shrimp in the freezer, but worse things can happen than to have this favorite instant-food at hand. All I will say is to be sure to buy them fresh and freeze them yourself, since then you’ll know how fresh they were before freezing, and how long they have been in the freezer. And you can freeze them in their shells, which is infinitely preferable to shelled shrimp.

One morning at Ventana in Big Sur, feeling the strain of trying for weeks to wean the Carmel Pebble Beach ladies-who-lunch away from canned chef’s salad and over to our regional American menu, I regretted the tequila I had shared with my Mexican cooks the night before. Their jeffe Pedro saved the day. “Here jeffe,” he said, “eat this.”


  • ½pound fresh prawns
  • 1cup fresh salsa
  • 8 sprigs Cilantro
  • Green chili hot sauce
  • Lime wedges


Cook the prawns in 1 cup simmering salted water for 5 minutes in a covered saucepan.

Drain the prawns in a colander and save the liquid. Put some ice on the prawns to cool them down, but do not leave the ice on them for more than 10 minutes. Shell the prawns and grind the shells in a food processor with the saved cooking liquid. Put the ground shells and the liquid in the saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and save the liquid, and discard the shells.

Meanwhile, coarsely chop the prawns and add them to the saved liquid.

Put the chopped prawns and their broth in large wine glasses. Add the salsa, and put the cilantro on top and serve with lime wedges and hot sauce on the side.