From fisher to chef: BC spot prawns are delivered to YEW

Steve Johansen, Chef Ned Bell, Frank Keitsch, Chef Robert Clark

(L to R): Steve Johansen, Chef Ned Bell, Frank Keitsch, Chef Robert Clark

If the spot prawn had an ego, it would be heavily stroked; it was coined “Ingredient of The Year” by Vancouver Magazine in 2008 and is touted as a “Best Choice” seafood by SeaChoice and OceanWise. Not to mention, that it has been told countless times how delicious and versatile it is.

Wild BC Spot Prawns

While you can buy frozen BC prawns year round, it isn’t until May that fresh, wild, BC spot prawns are “in season”. To celebrate the arrival of these odd-looking sea creatures, I joined a small group of media representatives for a dinner at YEW restaurant prepared by two notable sustainable seafood advocates, Chef Ned Bell and Chef Robert Clark. A huge blue bin of quivering prawns were delivered to the restaurant by the Organic Ocean boys, Steve Johansen and Frank Keitsch.

Organic Ocean

Wild BC Spot Prawn

Organic Ocean

According to Chef Robert Clark, former Executive Chef at C Restaurant and future owner of The Fish Counter, 99% of prawns come from Thailand. Whether your motto is to eat, drink, and be local, or you’re at least conscious of where your food is sourced from, this is an alarming percentage.

It doesn’t help that we have a short prawn season in BC (from May to June), but Vancouver folks certainly make the most of the brief ‘fresh from the fisher’ time frame. From the Chefs Table Society of BC’s Annual Spot Prawn Festival that continously sells out and a series of BC Spot Prawn Boils at Campagnolo, to a delicious dinner at YEW Restaurant with spot prawns starring in each dish.

Before my dinner at YEW I sipped on a special BC Spot Prawn Cocktail….

Wild BC Spot Prawn Cocktail

(They wouldn’t do this to me, the actual cocktail — made especially for the event — is here)

BC Spot Prawns ‘Raw & Poached’ with Green Goddess Dressing (Ned Bell)

BC Spot Prawns 'Raw & Poached'

Ned makes his Green Goddess dressing by ditching the mayo and opting for olive oil with a variety of fresh herbs instead. The sauce, that typically accompanies seafood, paired unsurprisingly well with the spot prawns, coating them with a tangy and smooth taste. Well many love them raw (Frank told me he always gobbles them up will asea) hearing that it twitched on my neighbour’s plate made me a tad squeamish and put off. I tried it, but I didn’t love it.

Paired with: Kurtis, Semillon, Okanagan, BC

Made with love by Vancouver’s 2010 Sommelier of the year, the “Kurtis” Semillon is Kurtis Kolt’s creation in collaboration with Okanagan Crush Pad. Inspired by Australia’s Hunter Valley style, this Semillon is an obvious match for fresh shellfish with its brilliant acidity, clean minerality and lemon/lime zest. The texture of the wine has a subtle element of richness that brings out the creamy quality of Chef Ned Bell’s raw and lightly poached spot prawns while also allowing their natural sweetness to shine through without being overpowered.

A big thanks to Emily Walker, YEW’s Sommelier and Sales Manager, for the wine pairing and above insight.

‘Thai Style’ Pickled Spot Prawns with Mint, Cucumber and Peanuts (Rob Clark)

'Thai Style' Pickled Spot Prawns

Having spent almost a month in Thailand, I have an insatiable appetite for anything Thai inspired. The celery-shaped cucumber and the mint gave this dish a fresh flavour, while the peanuts contrasted the creamy mousse that acted as a bed for the prawn teepee. Emily Walker, YEW’s sommelier/Sales Manager, paired this dish with the sweet and slightly effervescent Domaine Zind Humbrecht Muscat, and had me reminiscing about my time in Koh Samui.

Paired with: Domaine Zind Humbrecht, Muscat, Alsace, France

From Alsace’s benchmark producer of biodynamic wine, Domaine Zind Humbrecht Muscat is a special treat to have here in BC with such small production. The wine is fragrant and bursting with spicy aromatics which play perfectly with the Thai inspired ingredients of Chef Rob Clark’s “Thai-style” Pickled Spot Prawns. The wine is slightly off-dry on the palate lending to a pleasing contrast from the light saltiness of the pickled spot prawn and savory crunch of the peanuts. The wine’s medium bodied weight was not undermined by the rich mascarpone cheese in the dish.

A big thanks to Emily Walker, YEW’s Sommelier and Sales Manager, for the wine pairing and above insight.

Spring Spot Prawn ‘Pea Soup’ with Crispy Prosciutto and Truffle Oil (Rob Clark)

Spring Spot Prawn 'Pea Soup'

This dish really hit the spot for me; it was rich, but not sickenly so, and ridiculously addicting. The truffle oil took the dish to the utmost level as it swirled around the spot prawns swimming in the vibrant green pond of peas. The prosciutto could be eaten on its own, or crushed up and thrown in the soup to add a little crunch to the mix.

While getting to know Deana Lancaster, restaurant columnist for North Shore News, it was hard for me to keep a ‘fine dining demeanor’ because I wanted so badly to lick the bowl clean.

Paired With: Tinhorn Creek, Rose, Cabernet Franc, Okanagan, BC

From one of the pioneers of 100% varietal Cabernet Franc wines in BC, this beautifully balanced, light rose is a pleasure to pair with light summer dishes and cured meats. The wine is dry with lemony acidity which was just enough to gently cut through the creaminess of Chef Rob Clark’s “Spring Spot Prawn ‘Pea Soup'”. Notes of sweet wild strawberries and a hit of black pepper on the palate was a nice complement to the crispy prosciutto and dash of truffle oil garnishing the dish.

A big thanks to Emily Walker, YEW’s Sommelier and Sales Manager, for the wine pairing and above insight.

Spot Prawn & Halibut ‘Surf N Surf’ with Cauliflower, Kale Caesar Salad, Cashews and Warm Potato Chips (Ned Bell)

Spot Prawn & Halibut 'Surf N Surf'

After three courses I was hardly ready to tackle this full plate, but I dug in anyway and did a pretty decent job, finishing the salad, the prawns and almost all of the halibut. The kale caesar salad was delicious with fresh parmesan, thinly sliced cauliflower and a light but flavorful dressing. And I have never tasted halibut so buttery; I hope that one day I can make it as beautiful at home. Who needs a surf n turf when you can have a surf n surf?

Paired with: Duo of reds – Foppiano, Pinot Noir, Russian River, California & Terralsole, Rosso di Montalcino, Tuscany, Italy

These two reds were selected to demonstrate how red wines can successfully pair with fish. Foppiano’s delicate yet fruit-forward Pinot Noir is brimming with bright red fruit yet a savory background of mushroom and earth notes. This allowed the delicate flavors of Halibut and Spot Prawns to show through while also jiving with the slight bitterness of the Kale in the dish. 2nd wine – Rosso di Montalcino (100% Sangiovese) is one of my favorite “go-to” red wines to pair with fish. The nose is aromatic with violettes and vanilla while the palate offers elegantly restrained flavors of fresh raspberries, earth and spice. This Rosso di Montalcino from Terralsole is light – medium bodied with soft tannins and bright acidity which tends to be the recipe for success when it comes to red wine and fish.

A big thanks to Emily Walker, YEW’s Sommelier and Sales Manager, for the wine pairing and above insight.

Black Pepper Strawberries with Lime Curd, Green Tea Meringue, White Chocolate Ice Cream (YEW’s Pastry Chef Bruno Feldeisen)

Black Pepper Strawberries with Lime Curd

What looked like a random assortment of geometric shapes, wound up being a random assortment of flavours — that worked. The airy cake reminded me of pieces of an angel food cake, soaked in sweet strawberry coulis and tangy lime curd. The meringue held only a subtle taste of green tea but offered texture to the generally soft dish. The silky smooth white chocolate ice cream was also subtle in chocolate flavor.

Bruno chose not to incorporate spot prawns in the dessert. As delicious as they are, they may be better left out of the sweet finish.

Some final thoughts from the duo who made our delicious feast:

“Ultimately I want to break down the barrier and encourage people to cook fish at home,” explained Chef Robert Clark. “Fish is easy to cook, you just have to remember to treat it delicately.”

“People get it in their head that if a fish is overcooked it is ruined,” Chef Ned Bell added, “yet an overcooked steak or chicken will still be edible to them. Also, it starts with good fish – the only place for bad fish is in the garbage.” 

I couldn’t agree with you more Ned.

For high resolution photos check out my Wild BC Spot Prawn set on Flickr.

To have a go at it yourself, why not try Chef Robert Clark’s Simply Poached Wild BC Spot Prawn recipe. Have a recipe you love? Share it with me!

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