Langostinos a la plancha are one of the most common Northern Spanish entrees. They’re probably also one one the most common Southern Spanish entrees and one of the most delicious dishes imaginable all around.
Whenever I’m in Spain, I try to eat them as much as possible since in Germany, there’s not much of a chance of getting one’s hands on fresh raw prawns. Most things in the shrimp category you can buy in German come cooked, peeled and frozen. Before I tried the real thing, I thought I could make do with that. I’ve given up trying that and instead have actual langostinos whenever I get the chance and whenever they are affordable.
Frying a few prawns in a pan sounds like a deceptively easy thing. At least that’s what I thought before I started to try and cover my mother-in-law’s recipe. She made it look so easy, but in the end, it took me more than two years to figure out how to overcome all the little pitfalls – burnt prawns, burnt garlic, soggy prawns, greasy prawns, tasteless prawns… you name it, I’ve had it happen on my stove.
The following recipe is designed so that none of that will happen on yours.
Langostinos a la plancha (as an entree for two)
- a dozen fresh, raw prawns
- 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
- 1 tbsp. white wine
- 1 small, dried red chili pepper
- 2 cloves of garlic
- a dash of salt (if wanted)
- Peel and chop the garlic.
- In a pan (the prawns should fit in in one layer, but the pan shouldn’t be much bigger, either), put the 1-2 tbsp. olive oil. Don’t heat it up yet!
- With the oil still cold, add the dried chili pepper and the chopped garlic pieces.
- Now slowly simmer over medium heat for a few minutes. The garlic is supposed to sizzle a little, but not to brown.
- When the garlic has softened, take it out of the pan and put it aside. Also take out the chili pepper.
- Now fire up the pan to full heat and add the prawns. The moment you add them, reduce the heat to 2/3.
- Sauté the prawns for about two minutes until they start to turn pink around the edges. The time to turn them around has come when you can see frothy foam blubbering up inside their heads.
- Flip the prawns over one by one and sauté for another two minutes, until they have the characteristic white-pink tint that tells you they’re done.
- Add the softened garlic pieces to the pan again. If you like a little extra zing, feel free to add the chili pepper again, too. Wait for about 20-30 seconds.
- Now drizzle the white wine over the prawns. This works best with the wine bottle and your thumb in front of the opening, allowing just drops to spill out. Careful, the evaporation is so quick this way that you might get your thumb burned by the steam (it’s worth it, though).
- This is the trickiest part (next to not burning the garlic): the wine is supposed to coat the prawns and give it an extra shine, but it’s also supposed to evaporate almost on the spot, not forming a sauce in the pan. If there is an ounce to much liquid, you immediately end up with soggy prawns.
- Set the wine aside, stir the prawns around for another half minute or minute. Switch off the heat if you think the garlic might start to burn after all (it will brown in the liquid, but that’s from the prawns). Salt lightly, if you want to.
- And you’re done! Serve piping hot straight out of the pan. Make sure you DO serve the garlic bits, but not the chili pepper. Add some fresh white bread (baguette-type), if you like.
- On eating prawns (I had to learn this, since I only knew the cooked-peeled-frozen variety before that you can eat with a fork): Keep napkins at hand, it’s a messy food either way.
- Pick one up with your hands – careful, hot – and first suck the sauce off the back, then off the legs. I refused to do this the first year (uppity German table manners and all that) and missed out on a lot of great sauce that way.
- Then twist off the head, afterwards peel of the shell by the legs until you can pull the meat out of the tail.
- PS. If you’re a cooking buff, don’t discard the heads and shells. With some cognac, pimentón and cooking cream, they make a mean and very impressive broth/sauce for another day and dish. Just sauté up with some olive oil, add cognac and cream, simmer for a while, add pimentón (for color) and freshly ground black pepper, filter through a sieve and you’re done.