Introduction: Thai-Cajun Hot Pot With Prawns

About: Everything needs a garnish. Let's talk food! Follow me on Twitter: @garnishgirl

Thai curry and lemongrass melt into bay leaf, cayenne,and paprika in this one-pot recipe. The bite of lemongrass satisfies seafood's need for lemon. Add a hearty scoop of rice to make a deceptively fancy and filling week night dinner.

My husband and I utilize our rarely used fondue pot, fondue parties long gone since our son was born, to make this meal for two. When we found a whole prawn special at our local Asian grocer's fish department, we couldn't resist making a hot pot.

Hot pots were first introduced to me in clay pots at the Vietnamese restaurant where I waited tables at seventeen, then again two years later in a tiny Korean restaurant with tables so close they nearly touched.

One pot meals speak of comfort. Raised in a French family, I grew up on ratatouille, boeuf bourguignon, and coq au vin stewed in my mother's well worn Le Creuset. Now, I can't pass up adding a bay leaf. I tossed one in with the Thai flavors, along with good European butter, some smoked paprika, and cayenne.

As a final note, we did a little research as to how to name this recipe and came up with a blank. The flavors we added to the Thai staples seemed distinctly Southern and of French origin- but to call the recipe Cajun or Creole? There was no roux. Cajun seems to fit, with the bay leaf, oil-based pepper flavors, and butter.

Please do share opinions and correct us if we're wrong- we're curious exactly how Creole and Cajun differ. We'd love your knowledge on the subject.

Thai-Cajun Hot Pot With Prawns
serves two

Active Preparation Time: 5 to 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 to 15 minutes

1 lb. 50-60 size shrimp, whole with shells on
2 T olive oil
2 T red curry paste (I like Mae Ploy)
1/4 onion
1 stalk lemongrass
3 large garlic cloves
1  bay leaf
1/2 t. cayenne
1/4 t. smoked paprika
1/4 t kosher shalt
1/2 c. water
1/2 cup loose Thai basil leaves, stems removed

1. Finely dice the onion, and the pale portion of the lemongrass. If you prefer, leave the pale part of the lemongrass stalk whole, to be removed later.

2. In your pot or skillet, heat the oil until crackling. Add the red curry paste and stir quickly. Add onions and lemongrass within a minute (before the paste becomes grainy), and stir rapidly. Add the prawns.

3. As the prawns release liquid, stir, and reduce heat slightly. Add the bay leaf, cayenne, and smoked paprika, and cook until the prawn shells are a rich golden brown, with pink undertones.

4. Add the water, and bring back up to a boil. Simmer until the sauce is a rich, thick broth. About two minutes before serving add the 1/2 cup of basil leaves. Stir until leaves look just wilted.

5. Ladle over rice into a bowl, and enjoy still steaming. Eating the prawns whole is encouraged.