This dish came about when I was asked to team up with a friend to compete in a Iron Chef-like seafood cookoff featuring sustainable Alaska seafood. We came down right to the wire, but managed to cook up a wonderful dish. The contrast of flavors and textures between the roasted and raw fennel, coupled with the sweetness of the oranges and briny olives, was an incredible combination. The fresh Alaska spot prawns, after mingling with the chopped bacon in the oven, were salty-sweet and utterly succulent. And the perfect finishing touch came from the buttery toasted citrus breadcrumbs, which added that crunchy texture that we all crave. The dish was as delicious as it was beautiful. And wouldn't ya know it...we won. :)
Roasted Alaska Spot Prawns, with Fennel, Olives, and Oranges
- 30 Alaska spot prawns, peeled, with tails intact
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 4 bacon slices, finely diced
- 3 fennel bulbs, cored and halved lengthwise
- 3 oranges, peeled and segmented ("supremed")
- 20 green olives (preferably Castelvetrano), pitted and halved
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup panko (japanese bread crumbs)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- zest of one orange
- fennel fronds, for garnish
- kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
On the medium thickness setting of your mandolin (or with a sharp knife), slice one fennel bulb crosswise about 1/4 inch thick. Toss the fennel on a baking sheet with 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange in one layer and bake for 20-30 minutes until soft and golden.
Place orange segments and their juice into a bowl along with the olives. On the thinnest setting of your mandolin slicer (or by using a very sharp knife) thinly slice two fennel bulbs crosswise, being careful to reserve the fronds as garnish. Add sliced fennel to the bowl, along with the lemon juice and 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste and toss well.
Cook diced bacon on medium-high heat in a large cast iron skillet. When bacon is partially cooked and some bacon fat has rendered, add 1 tablespoon of butter and add shallots. Once shallots have cooked to translucency, remove from heat. Layer shrimp over shallots and bacon and season with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 until the shrimp just barely become opaque, about 5-7 minutes.
Mix the bread crumbs with 1 teaspoon of orange zest, a pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and add the bread crumbs to the skillet. Toss the crumbs around in the skillet until the breadcrumbs appear toasted, about 5-7 minutes.
To serve, place the roasted fennel on the bottom of the plate. Top with the shrimp and shallot/bacon mixture. Place the salad of orange, fennel, and olives on top of the shrimp along with a drizzle of the juices. Sprinkle with the seasoned breadcrumbs, additional orange zest, and fennel fronds.