12 fresh prawns, head and shell on
1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
flaky sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 cloves garlic confit, chopped, with some of the oil
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 lemon, quartered
Chef's Note: I have found two good ways to reproduce this dish at home. The first is to heat a cast-iron frying pan in the oven on its hottest setting for 1 hour and then roast the prawns on it. The other, more amusing, way is to let the pan get scorching hot over live fire. I do this sometimes when I'm camping to cook proteins that like intense high heat, such as bay scallops and squid. We are lucky enough to get amazing live prawns from Santa Barbara, but any good-quality head-on shrimp works well. I like to keep the heads on because I really think the shrimp taste better that way, but I also just love sucking the sweet, flavorful juice from them after they cook. Serve these on their own, or with Romesco sauce. Cold beer is essential.
1. We cook this in our 850°F [455°C] wood-burning oven, and what happens to a delicate piece of seafood like a fresh prawn in an oven that hot is magic. Leaving the shell on insulates the meat and helps prevent it from overcooking. Preheat the oven to 500°F [260°C]. Put a large, dry cast-iron frying pan in the oven and heat until very hot, about 1 hour. Alternatively, heat the pan over a hot fire in a charcoal grill or over a gas grill on high.
2. With a paring knife, cut a slit down the back of the prawn shells and rinse the prawns well under cold water. Pat dry.
3. In a medium bowl, combine the prawns and olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Add the garlic confit, parsley, and crushed red pepper flakes and toss to combine. At the last minute, squeeze the juice from the lemon quarters into the bowl, and drop them into the mix.
4. Unload the prawns and their aromatic juices into the hot pan and quickly close the oven door or cover the grill. Roast the prawns, undisturbed, just until they are cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.
5. Transfer the prawns and the roasted lemon wedges to a serving platter. Serve immediately.