GAMBERI AL COGNAC (Prawns cooked with cognac or brandy)

When we first come to Australia my mother did a lot of cooking using Vermouth and Cognac. These were used to deglaze the pan when she cooked meat, fish and vegetables and made excellent sauces.

She also doused cakes with both of these before filling them with crème anglaise – she never used cream or cover the cake with icing like the mothers of my Anglo-Australian friends. Needless to say, I never offered my friends cake. (She used Cherry Brandy in cakes sometimes; this was also common in South Australia, but very sweet and from memory did not taste very much like cherries or resemble Maraschino!).

At that time, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, my mother was using Annabella for her recipes; this was a popular women’s magazine (un giornale femminile) published in Italy and mailed to us in Adelaide (via sea) by my aunt in Trieste. I think that  Vermouth (there was sweet and dry styles… bianco come later) and Cognac may have been the only two alcoholic beverages that we knew or purchased.

We cooked with Vermouth and Cognac and my parents drank it as well – Vermoth as the aperitivo  and the Cognac as the digestivo. Commercial wine was pretty limited, but there was plenty of home made stuff around (made by Italians and not all of it was drinkable) and there was home made grappa, some of this was made with potato peels. Australian men drank beer and we did cook veal shanks with this; Australian women liked shandies (beer and lemonade) and Crème de menthe.

Anyhow, all of the above because when we cleaned out my mother’s house I found bottles of Vecchia Romagna (cognac) and all these memories come flooding back.

I cooked the prawns with one of her bottles of Vecchia Romagna; a friend of mine asked me if I was mad.

1 kg green prawns (I used shelled)
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 cup of parsley finely cut
1 cup small glass brandy (or cognac)
½ cup of extra virgin olive oil
30 g of butter
1 lemon, the juice and peel
salt (to taste) and plenty of black ground pepper
Dry the prawns and sauté them for 3 minutes in the extra virgin olive oil. Use a large frying pan so that the prawns have space to cook.
Add the parsley and garlic, salt, black pepper and the lemon zest and continue to cook for a couple more minutes.
Add the cognac and lemon juice and evaporate over high heat.
Add the butter, swirl it around throughout the sauce and serve.


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