This dish is also known simply as polenta e schie indicating how important it is that these prawns, tiny grey shrimp that are fished out of the Venetian lagoon, are served together with polenta. There is something really satisfying about this contrast of textures: the soft, velvety bed of polenta topped with the incredibly crunchy prawns, which are eaten – strictly – heads, shells and all. No Venetian would bother to sit and peel these tiny prawns one by one, it would be unthinkable. But also, you’d really miss that crunch, which is vital to the whole experience of eating schie.
Note that this is traditionally eaten with white polenta, which is a soft, floppy style of polenta, but you could also eat these schie just as they are as a delicious crunchy snack, like chips, perfect for aperitivo. This amount would easily serve at least four people as part of a meal, but if serving smaller plates as cicchetti, you could stretch it to eight.
For a more in-depth exploration of Venetian dishes, get your copy of Emiko Davies’ Cinnamon & Salt.
Schie Fritte: Fried Venetian Prawns
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) live, very small prawns (shrimp) (school prawns or brown shrimp)
- 1 ½ tablespoons plain, all-purpose flour, for dusting
- vegetable oil, for frying
- creamy white polenta or polenta crostini, to serve
- Place the whole prawns in a large bowl and dust with the flour, mixing gently so they are all covered lightly. Pour the vegetable oil into a wide frying pan with at least 2 cm (3/4 in) oil and heat over a medium heat to 180°C (350°F).
- Fry the prawns in a few batches – they should only take about 30 seconds to cook (they will turn orange and the flour will become crisp and golden). Drain on absorbent kitchen paper and sprinkle generously with salt. When they are all ready, serve them with hot, creamy white polenta, or with grilled white polenta crostini.
Cinnamon & Salt by Emiko Davies (Hardie Grant, £22), Photography © Emiko Davies.