This recipe suits many sizes of shrimp, from giant gambas and prawns on down, including langoustines (scampi or Dublin Bay prawns). The shrimps must be raw, and in their shells, with or without heads, but don?t use baby shrimps as they will absorb too much salt. Here?s the place to use your special artisan fleur de sel. You?ll find guests jump right in, peeling the shellfish at table as a first course or luxurious main course.

Serves 4 as a first course

  • 1 1/2 to 2 pounds/675 to 900 grams gambas, scampi, or large raw shrimps
  • 1/4 cup/30 grams/1 ounce cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon/18 grams/3/4 coarse sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil, more if needed
  • Freshly ground black pepper, for serving
  • Medium sauté pan or deep frying pan

Peel and devein the gambas. Mix the cornstarch and salt in a medium bowl, add the gambas and toss them until coated. Heat the oil in the sauté pan over medium heat. When almost smoking, add half the gambas, spreading them flat. Press them down with another heavy pan on top. Fry until lightly browned, 1 to 2 minutes depending on their size. Remove the top pan, turn the gambas, press again, and brown the other side, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Repeat with the remaining gambas, adding more oil if necessary. Serve at once, very hot, passing the peppermill for a topping of freshly ground pepper.

photo by France Ruffenach
Excerpted from THE COUNTRY COOKING OF FRANCE
by Anne Willan, Chronicle Books, 2007.