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Catching Spot Prawns with SkyCity Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield

Spring time in the great Pacific Northwest isn’t much of a spring at all, it looks and feels like an extension of winter.  Some would say we have just two seasons, gloomy and cold or partly gloomy and warmer.  What keeps me going through the darker months is the anticipation of more daylight, warmer temperatures and the opening of the Salish Sea Spot Prawn season.

Just for a couple of days during the month of May, us outdoor junkies get the chance to get out on the water and stake our claim.  That claim being 80 of the delicious creatures that are found only in these Pacific waters.  My little piece of the pie lies within the Hood Canal, just south of the bridge where I spent my childhood years on the beach.  Spot prawns are in these waters year round but only come up to a catch-able depth during the spring spawning season.

Armed with weighted lines fastened to traps with a float on the end, we send these contraptions to the murky depths loaded with our “secret recipe” bait.  (Typically cat food, some raw chicken and whatever other smelly, unidentifiable food stuff that is left in the freezer from the past winter. )  We wait in anticipation for what our haul will bring.  By haul, I mean haul.  Pulling the pots off the bottom some 200 feet below the surface can take its toll on you.  If you’re lucky, your boat will have a motorized winch or pulley to do the heavy lifting for you.  After a good soak of an hour or so, we bring in the pots to see the bounty they have to offer.  A good pull can have an entire limit stuffed inside, we are usually not that lucky.  Armed with sandwiches, cold beer, jokes and stories, we make the best of being out on the water.

Spot prawns are unquestionably the best prawn in my opinion; they’re sweet, tender and beautiful creatures.  Eaten raw with a little soy and Pacific Farms wasabi, there isn’t much else that can beat them.  You don’t find fresh Spots in markets very often due to their relatively short shelf life. You may find them live in places like Mutual Fish or Uwajimaya or frozen headless in more high-end grocers such as Whole Foods.

A favorite recipe for Spot prawns of mine is leaving them whole, sautéing over medium-high heat for 3 minutes, adding a little garlic and shallot.  Deglaze the pan with a splash of vermouth, add a pinch of chili flakes, a squeeze of lime, and swirl in a nug of butter to make a simple beurre blanc.  Serve with a little crusty bread and a crisp white wine or the left over beer from the cooler if you have any…


- Executive Chef Jeff Maxfield


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