Dining on prawns in an alpine setting reminds us of one of our most memorable culinary experiences ever. This experience helped your author to define her favorite dining situation: elegant food in a rustic setting. The food at this restaurant was wonderful, but what was even more memorable was the ambiance. I still remember every detail.
Have you ever had such a dining experience? If so, we’d love to hear about it. Please share the experience with us by clicking on “comments” below. From all of the comments on this topic we will choose one entry (randomly). That “commenter” will receive a handy Splendid Market tote bag and notepads for free (see photo above)!
Our experience happened while skiing in Zermatt, Switzerland many years ago. Someone in our party mentioned a restaurant he had read about called “Enzo’s Hitta”. Directions were given in many different languages. Up and down the mountain we skiied looking for this elusive hut. Then, finally, we saw a sign. It wasn’t much of a sign, it was more like a broken board. Painted across the rough board were the words “Enzo’s Hitta” and an arrow. The arrow pointed down a small hill. There was a rope tied to a pole, which ran the length of the hill. We each took turns holding onto the rope and lowering ourselves, backwards, down the hill.
At the bottom of the hill we removed our skis and walked out onto a rustic porch. The large porch was filled with picnic tables and benches. The tables were elegantly set with white linen napkins, polished silver and crystal glasses. Neatly folded on each of the benches were colorful plaid, woolen blankets. In the center of a large bar, by the far railing of the porch, was a giant silver bowl, filled with bottles of wine and champagne. As if this wasn’t enough on a bright, sunny day in Switzerland, behind the bar and silver bowl, in the near distance, stood the Matterhorn, perfectly grandiose!
Well, after taking all of this in, I would have expressed my very best “grazie” for a glass of water, departed and still would have felt completely satisfied. But we sat, and stayed, and ate and drank and enjoyed an afternoon of bliss. As it turns out, Enzo is a fabulous Italian chef and he provided us with an exquisite lunch. As we dined, we watched the porch fill with people of all nationalities. Many walked up to the restaurant using a trail that came up from the village of Zermatt. More came down from the mountain as we had.
The meal was delicious, the pasta was perfectly al dente, the prawns were delicate in flavor, color and texture, lightly sprinkled with fresh herbs. The presentation was beyond splendid. I don’t recall the exact seasonings; but here’s a quick prawn dish we like to enjoy at any elevation:
1 pound prawns deveined, tails on
4 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tablespoon saffron threads
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons shallots, minced
1 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 cup dry white wine
Add the garlic and shallots and stir up the mixture. Place the prawns into pan. Let them cook on each side until they just loose their translucency, about 2 minutes per side.
Remove the prawns from the pan and cover with foil.
Pour the white wine into the pan, increase the heat to high. Stir regularly until the sauce is reduced by about a third. Sprinkle in the parsley.
A splendid side for this creation is sauteed spinach. It couldn’t be easier to prepare. It can sit, covered in the pan for about 15 minutes…just enough time to whip up the prawns.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound baby spinach leaves, washed and lightly patted with paper towels
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
the juice of 1 lemon
Into a large saute pan, over medium high heat, pour the olive oil. Allow to heat for a couple of minutes. Then add the spinach by handfuls. Let the bottom level of leaves wilt a little before stiring up the pile of spinach. Slowly toss the spinach until it is about 3/4 of the way wilted (about 3 minutes). Sprinkle the spinach with the garlic and lemon juice and stir it up. Cover with a lid or foil. Turn off the heat and allow to sit for at least 5 minutes and up to 15. If it gets too cool, you can turn up the heat and gently toss the leaves until just warm.
When buying prawns, if fresh from the sea (no later than yesterday) isn’t available, go for the frozen variety! In bulk or a sealed bag, these will taste better that those in your local fish case. The prawns in the majority of fish cases were frozen at sea and thawed by the fish monger. The problem is, there is no way of knowing when they were thawed or how. If you buy the prawns frozen you can control the thawing process. To thaw them: place them in a bowl in the refrigerator (covered, or still in the bag) the day before you need them to allow them to slowly thaw. If you need them more quickly, they can be put in a colandar, in the sink, a few hours before you need them and allowed to thaw. Spray them with cold water to speed up the process and for a final rinse before preparation. Blot them dry with paper towels before cooking.
We are looking forward to hearing about your memorable dining experiences!