The flavors for this dish come from traditional Roman saltimbocca: veal cutlets with sage and prosciutto. I’ve just replaced the prosciutto with pancetta and the veal with prawns or jumbo shrimp. The tender prawns balance the meatiness and crispiness of the bacon, and the sage, tempered by the lemon, makes it all very fresh-tasting. I’ve designed this recipe for an indoor broiler, but you can also do it on an outdoor grill if you’ve got one.
I cook my prawns with their heads on to protect the meat at the top of the prawn and keep it moise. If your dining companions won’t appreciate that much nature-red-in-tooth-and-claw, pull the heads off right before serving.
- 16 large prawns or jumbo shrimp (about 3 pounds)
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
- 16 fresh sage leaves
- 1 pound pancetta, sliced by the butcher (2 to 3 pieces per prawn)
- Juice of 1 lemon
1. Clean the prawns: remove the shells, then slice the backs open lengthwise and pull out the black vein that runs along the back of the prawn.
2. Turn on the broiler.
3. Lay the prawns flat on a large plate or baking sheet and sprinkle them on both sides with the pepper.
4. Pick up a prawn and put a sage leaf on its back, in the middle, covering the incision you've made. Roll 2 or 3 pieces of pancetta around the prawn and sage leaf, overlapping them slightly so the sage is completely covered as is the meaty part in the center of the prawn. Repeat with each prawn.
5. Lay the prawns on a broiler pan or a slotted pan with a drip sheet below.
6. Put the pan in the oven on the high rack—you want the prawns to get really crispy—and broil them until brown on all sides, about 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and flip the prawns over with tongs. Continue broiling until the bacon is crisp and translucent (so you can see the sage through the bacon) and the prawns are pink, about 2 more minutes.
7. Remove the prawns to a serving platter and squeeze the lemon juice over the top. Serve immediately.
Reprinted with permission from Urban Italian: Simple Recipes and True Stories from a Life in Food by Andrew Carmellini, Bloomsbury USA