Anyone who’s ever known a chef–or even anyone whose ever known a man who knows where the kitchen is–knows that both chefs and men have a thing for knives. I found one of these men, a particularly blade-obsessed young chef named Gabriel who has the bright red stain of a full pair of woman’s lips on his neck that took me about three months to figure out was a tattoo–and made him My Knife Guy. Gabriel doesn’t know he’s My Knife Guy, all he knows is that he is sharpening my knife for me, an 8-inch Shun chef’s knife given to me by Sara Foster when I was writing her book several years ago. Gabriel is sharpening my knife out of pity. Not pity for me. I mean, he might have felt a little sorry for me, but I’m sure he felt really sorry for the knife. He wouldn’t touch my Wushof though; said he didn’t understand how they work or something like that, which just goes to show you how deeply into knives he is. Although I have no idea how any knife works, I do know when a knife doesn’t work, which is how mine ended up in Gabriel’s skilled hands.
The only person that could possibly be happier than I am about my knife getting sharpened, if he weren’t already dead, would be the live spot prawn that essentially drove me to Gabriel, an innocent six-inch creature that I attempted to bisect with my sad, battered Shun–but more like sawed and hacked away at–last week. Thankfully Gabriel didn’t see this, but Erik, another chef, the braise guy at Mozza, who also knows his way with a knife, did. I’d called him over to help me when I was was testing a recipe for grilled, halved spot prawns–and things, even to my barely-trained eye, clearly weren’t going well. Erik looked down at the poor little crustacean lying in shreds on my cutting board and then picked up the knife lying next to Spot. “Wow!” he said. He sounded truly amazed as he touched the blade of my knife with increasing pressure until it were as if he were touching the edge of a paper clip. But Erik’s a nice guy. Always looking on the bright side. “At least you bought a Shun,” he said, turning his gaze from my knife up to me with a big smile. Actually, it was a gift, I confessed. Five un-sharpened years ago. Gabriel might call this child abuse.
Grilled Spot Prawns
Spot prawns are a seasonal delicacy, harvested, at least if you’re getting them in California, from off the coast of Santa Barbara. You buy them live and take them home in water, like a pet, until you decide to cook them. The idea is to kill them quickly, and I’ll guess painlessly, so if you have any heart at all, before you do anything else, go sharpen your knife–or find someone to do it for you.
Now here’s the recipe. Ready? Okay: Bisect as many live spot prawns as you want to eat and/or serve. Grill them, shell side down, until they’re cooked. This will take about 2 minutes. Take them off the grill, brush them with good olive oil, sprinkle them with Maldon salt, and eat and/or serve. This couldn’t be a more delightful experience, speaking from the point of view of someone who is not a spot prawn that is…