This is a luxurious first course, with the shellfish (prawns, in this case, refers to big shrimp) taking on an earthiness from the coffee-based marinade. The vanilla-perfumed parsnip puree provides a sweet, smooth contrast. Head-on shrimp aren’t just for a dramatic presentation: The head holds fat that many consider to be the best bit of the shrimp, for those willing to extract it.
Make Ahead: The vanilla oil and coffee oil may be made, cooled and refrigerated several days in advance.
- For the shrimp
- 1 tablespoon vanilla oil (see NOTE)
- 1 tablespoon coffee oil (see NOTE)
- 1 tablespoon brewed black coffee
- 1 medium shallot, cut into thin slices
- 1 bunch thyme
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
- 6 extra-large (16/20 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined, heads and tails left on (16/20 count)
- Freshly ground white pepper
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- For the puree
- 1 cup whole milk
- 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
- 2 medium parsnips, trimmed, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick coins (6 to 8 ounces)
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground white pepper
- For the kale
- 6 leaves kale, cleaned and torn into 2-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- For assembly
- 1 teaspoon vanilla oil
- 1 teaspoon coffee oil
For the shrimp: Combine the oils, coffee, shallot, thyme and parsley, if using, in a resealable plastic food storage bag. Add the shrimp. Press out as much air as possible from the bag as possible and seal it, then massage to distribute the marinade evenly. Refrigerate for 1 to 2 hours, turning the bag occasionally.
Remove the shrimp from the marinade, but do not pat them dry; discard the marinade left in the bag. Season the shrimp with salt and white pepper to taste.
Heat a large saute pan or skillet over medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the shrimp; reduce the heat to medium and cook for 30 seconds, then turn the shrimp over and cook for 30 seconds. Add the butter and use it to baste the shrimp, which should turn opaque. Remove from the heat.
For the parsnip puree: Combine the milk, vanilla bean and parsnips in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat; cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the parsnips can be easily pierced with a fork. Transfer the parsnips to a blender. Strain the milk mixture through a fine-mesh strainer into a heatproof bowl or large liquid measuring cup, reserving the vanilla bean.
Add 1/4 cup of the hot milk to the parsnips. Remove the center knob of the blender lid and place a towel over the opening to avoid splashups. Blend on low speed, adding milk as needed. Increase the blender speed to medium-high to form a smooth, soft puree, adding milk as needed.
Scrape the seeds from the reserved vanilla bean into the puree and blend just to incorporate. Taste, and add salt and pepper as needed.
For the kale: Have a medium bowl of ice water and a clean dish towel at hand.
Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat; add the kale and cook for 25 second. Use a slotted spoon to immediately transfer the kale to the ice-water bath (to stop the cooking). When the kale has cooled, transfer to the clean towel and pat dry.
Heat a skillet or saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and garlic; cook, stirring, until the garlic just begins to turn a lght golden brown. Immediately add the kale, white wine and salt and pepper to taste; cook for about 30 seconds or just until wilted.
To serve, divide the parsnip puree evenly between the plates, spreading it slightly into a swath. Top each portion with 3 shrimp, then drape the kale on or around them. Drizzle the vanilla and coffee oils around the plate.
NOTE: To make the vanilla and coffee oils, heat 1/2 cup of canola oil in each of two small saucepans over medium-high heat to 200 degrees. Turn off the heat; add 3 vanilla beans, split lengthwise, to one saucepan and 1/4 cup cracked coffee beans to the other. Add a pinch of salt to each and swirl the pan to combine. Allow to cool completely, then strain the oils into separate small lidded containers, discarding the vanilla beans and coffee. The oils may be stored in the refrigerator for several weeks.
Adapted from a recipe by chef Dannis Marron of Poste Moderne Brasserie.
Tested by Jim Webster and Jane Touzalin.
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