Image: Bluehour

If you've been to the farmers market in the past few weeks, you'll know that Oregon is standing on the precipice between winter and spring. The last season's winter squashes and bunches of kale are perched next to spring's pea shoots, green garlic, and crunchy breakfast radishes—and the change has only just begun. Portland chefs are reveling in the opportunity to showcase the fresh-from-the-market signs of spring, and thanks to the unseasonably warm winter we enjoyed, those signs seem to be sowing up earlier than ever.

Kyo Koo, executive chef of Bluehour, is busy getting ready to unveil his April menu inspired by the market's new ingredients. "I love cooking with spring ingredients because it gives me a sense of a new beginning," Koo shares. "After the winter months, spring brings us a lot of color and contrast." Locally inspired dishes on the upcoming menu include glazed morel mushrooms with pickled ramps, crispy beef tendon, and viola flowers, and a colorful breakfast radish salad with arugula, spring onions, red sorrel, sorghum reduction, and allium blossom.

Here, Koo shares his recipe for head-on roasted Oregon Spot Prawns with wild greens—like miner's lettuce, watercress, and mustard greens—pickled shallots and brown butter. The gorgeous plate uses rice flour to coat the spot prawns for a gluten-free crunch and piles on the antioxidant spring greens. Dig in!

Spot Prawns in a Spring Garden

"This dish was inspired by my desire to showcase the beautiful natural color of the spot prawn with some stark contrast and flavor of wild spring greens—all coming from Oregon. The brown butter and pickled shallot offer a nice fat and acid balance to the dish. With the natural sweet flavor of the spot prawn, the bites in this dish come together really nicely." Recipe serves 4

  • 4 whole wild Oregon spot prawns
  • 2 tablespoon rice flour
  • 2.5 cups vegetable oil (for frying)
  • sea salt to season
  • 4 bamboo skewers, 4 inch
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • ¾ cup rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup cold water
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorn
  • 1 teaspoon whole yellow mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon whole juniper berries
  • 1 star anise
  • 1 ounce miner's lettuce
  • 1 ounce wild watercress
  • 1 ounce wild mustard greens with flowers
  • 1 teaspoon arbequina olive oil

1. To make brown butter, add butter to a small saute pan, and cook gently over medium heat until milk solids color to a golden brown. Stir gently with a high heat spatula while doing this to brown the butter evenly. Immediately transfer to small mixing bowl and reserve at room temperature. 

2. To make pickled shallots, combine all ingredients except for shallots in a small pot. Bring to a rolling boil and immediately turn off heat. Let steep for 30 minutes, then bring back to boil and pour the liquid over thinly sliced shallots in a small mixing bowl. Allow to cool in refrigerator at least 1 hour.  

3. Rinse all wild greens thoroughly in cold running water, and dry on paper towels. It is ok to mix them. Set aside in refrigerator. 

4. For the spot prawns, carefully remove the shell from the tail section. Peel from below, breaking the shell from from front to back, to leave the tail whole. It is important to do this gently to keep the head attached to the spot prawn. Take peeled spot prawns and lay on a plate. Very carefully take point end of bamboo skewer and insert horizontally into the tail of the spot prawn, starting at the very back. This is to make sure the tail stays straight while cooking. In a small pot, using a candy thermometer, heat vegetable oil to 360 degrees Fahrenheit. 

5. Place rice flour on a plate, and gently dredge each spot prawn. Shake gently to remove excess rice flour. Individually, take prawns and submerge only the head section of the prawn in oil and fry until crispy. Approximately 1.5-2 minutes. Drain on paper towel.  

6. Right before serving, turn prawns around and fry the tail section until cooked. Approximately 30 seconds. Drain again on paper towel. Season with sea salt. 

7. To plate the dish, place cooked spot prawns upright in the center of 4 plates. With a spoon, coat each prawn liberally with brown butter. Place the wild greens in mixing bowl, and dress with arbequina olive oil, ½ teaspoon of the shallot pickling liquid and a pinch of sea salt. Distribute greens over the prawns evenly. To finish the dish, distribute the pickled shallot rings evenly on all four plates. Placing them around and on top of the greens.

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