Jane Lawson’s Butterflied Prawn Cutlets
Not just for Chinese takeaways, you know. An essential component of any self-respecting Fisherman’s basket, these cutlets are also great on their own, as a mighty fine finger food. Serve with tartare sauce.
24 raw king prawns
75g plain flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
90g breadcrumbs, made from two-day-old bread
vegetable or peanut oil, for deep-frying
fine sea salt, for sprinkling
lemon wedges, to serve
For the tartare sauce (makes about 250g)
165g good-quality mayonnaise
1½ tbsp very finely chopped white onion, squeezed to extract any liquid
2 tbsp salted capers, rinsed well and finely chopped
2 small sweet, spiced gherkins or dill pickles, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1½-2 tsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
1½ tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
3 tsp good-quality white wine vinegar
2 tsp dijon mustard
To make the tartare sauce, simply place all the ingredients in a small non-metallic bowl and mix together well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving, to allow the flavours to develop. Store in the fridge and use within 1 week.
Next, peel the prawns, leaving the tails attached. Take a small sharp knife and cut a line along the back of each prawn, where you can see the digestive tract – from the tail end to the head end. Make sure you don’t cut right through the prawn – just three-quarters of the way. Remove the digestive tract and discard.
Use your fingers to open the prawns up from the incision and flatten them down. Now use a rolling pin or the back of a heavy knife to gently beat the prawns out a little more, so that they lay flat, but don’t beat them to the point of ripping the flesh. Prepare three bowls, one of well-seasoned flour, one with beaten eggs and one with breadcrumbs. Individually dip the prawns in the flour, shaking off any excess. Dip into the egg, allowing any excess egg to drip back into the bowl, then cover with the breadcrumbs, pressing down lightly to help them adhere. Place on a tray lined with baking paper. Repeat with all the prawns, then cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least 1 hour.
When ready to cook, one-third fill a deep-fryer or large heavy-based saucepan with oil and heat to 170°C, or until a cube of bread dropped into the oil turns golden brown in 20 seconds. Cook the prawns in batches for 2 minutes, or until golden and just cooked through. Drain on paper towel and sprinkle with fine sea salt. Serve with lemon wedges, and a dipping sauce if desired.
Instead of using breadcrumbs, you can also use ground or finely chopped mild-flavoured nuts such as almonds, desiccated or shredded coconut, cornmeal, sesame seeds, or even crushed dried vermicelli noodles if you feel an Asian banquet coming on.
Extracted from Milkbar Memories by Jane Lawson (Murdoch Books, approx €26), out now. Photography by Brett Stevens and Maree Homer.