Cheers! An appetizer worth toasting

Wow them on New Year’s Eve, with very little effort, with these appetizers that put the cocktail glass into “seafood cocktail.” You simply poach the shrimp in an aromatic mixture of garlic, lemongrass and pepper, then dangle in martini glasses with baby lettuces and seafood cocktail sauce. A lemongrass swizzle stick with olives completes the look and tangy flavour.

The recipe calls for shelling and deveining the shrimp, but I bought frozen ones that were already shelled and deveined at Wellington Wholesale Seafood, in Hintonburg at 1105 Wellington St. W., where the owner was kind enough to count out and sell me exactly the number I needed. It saved a picky step and I doubt much flavour was lost by not having the shells in the poaching liquid.

The recipe comes from Vancouver chef Mary Mackay in The Girls Who Dish! cookbook. Mackay says “despite my culinary training, I still like to serve this with store-bought cocktail sauce.” If you want to go slightly more gourmet, and more local, get Lowertown Canning Company’s Cocktail sauce, made with local tomatoes and fresh shaved locally grown horseradish, for $7 at Lapointe Fish, 46 ByWard Market.

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Items for Laura Robin’s column: Prawntini (Julie Oliver / Ottawa Citizen)

Prawn-tinis | Makes: 4 servings | Preparation time: about 30 minutes

20 tiger prawns
1 stalk lemongrass
4 1/4 cups (about 1 L) water
5 whole peppercorns, crushed
5 garlic cloves, smashed
1 tsp (5 mL) salt
8 green olives, stuffed with pimento
1/4 cup (60 mL) seafood cocktail sauce
2 tbsp (30 mL) prepared mayonnaise
2 cups (500 mL) mixed baby lettuces
Half a lemon, cut into 4 wedges

1. Remove the shells from the tiger prawns, leaving the tails intact. Place the shells in a medium saucepan. De-vein the prawns and set aside.
2. Cut 6 inches (15 cm) off the top of the lemongrass stalk and set aside. Chop the remaining lemongrass into 1/2-inch (1.2-cm) pieces. Add the lemongrass, water, peppercorns, garlic cloves and salt to the pan with the prawn shells and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Let cool to room temperature. Strain the stock through a fine sieve.
3. Return the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Stir the prawns and remove from the heat. Let the prawns poach for 30 seconds, until pink. Remove the prawns from the stock and cool to room temperature.
4. Make a hole in each olive with a toothpick or bamboo skewer. Separate the reserved stalk of lemongrass into 4 skewers and slide 2 green olives onto each.
5. In a small bowl, stir together the cocktail sauce and mayonnaise.
6. To assemble, line 4 martini glasses with the mixed baby lettuces and top with a dollop of cocktail mayonnaise. Place 5 prawns, evenly spaced, head first into the cocktail mayonnaise, leaving their tails hanging over the edge of the glass. Place a lemongrass skewer of olives in the middle of the glass, leaning to one side, and garnish with a lemon wedge.

(Source: http://ottawacitizen.com)

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