Known to many chefs as "Dublin Bay Prawns" and the "Norway Lobster," or even "Lobsterettes", langoustines are always in high demand in kitchens all over the world. It is widely regarded by gourmands as one of the top shellfish species available on the market and is coveted for its delicate texture and delicious flavor. There is no argument about its quality - only over whether it is more like a shrimp, or more like a lobster.
Langoustines look similar to the Maine lobster (and are of the lobster family), but are much smaller, far more slender through the body, and have elongated narrow pincers instead of wide claws. However, to some purists, this is the only crustacean deserving of the name "prawn" - a word many associate with large shrimp. Further confusing matters is the fact that Italians call their Mediterranean langoustines "Scampi" - a popular dish in the U.S. that instead features sautéed shrimp. Species of langoustine are found predominantly in the Atlantic Ocean from Iceland south to Morocco into the Mediterranean, and off of coastal New Zealand and Australia as well (this species, Metanephrops challengeri is the one we showcase). "Langostinos" generally refers to the coldwater Pleauronocodes monodon that are caught off the coast of Chile.
These delectable decopods are typically 6-8 inches in length, and count out at approximately 5 to 7 per pound (but can be found larger). They are pinkish white in color with reddish orange bands, have spiny, ridged shells, and feature rather long antennae and pincers, which can be of equal length to the rest of their bodies. Unlike other crustaceans, their shells do dramatically change color when cooked. Their sweet meat is found only in the tail and claws and cooks white, but the entire langoustine can be used when creating sauces or soups. Most describe their texture is more akin to cooked shrimp than lobster.
Grilling and poaching in heavily salted water are the more popular cooking methods for langoustines, but the length of cooking time is best kept to the minimum necessary (2-3 minutes, depending on the recipe). Smaller ones are well suited for a court bouillon or other type of soups, or in paellas and pasta dishes. Larger ones can be split open and placed on the grill. While fresh langoustines are certainly a prized treat, frozen langoustines are more common on the US market due to their fragility.