A prawn is a shellfish that belongs to the same group as shrimp, lobster and crab. Although the terms are often used interchangeably -- mostly prawn in the U.K. and shrimp in the U.S. -- prawns and shrimps are different species that differ in gill structure and the way they brood their eggs. Raw prawns can be green, pink, brown, blue or yellow, but when cooked, the shell is pink and the meat is white. The shell imparts a lot of flavor and if removed before cooking, the prawns may be less flavorful.
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Position the rack in the upper third of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse the prawns. Remove the head and legs but leave the rest of the shell on. Cut the shell along the length of the back and remove the vein with a knife.
Lightly coat a shallow baking dish with olive oil or melted butter. Arrange the prawns in a single layer on the dish.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. For more flavor, sprinkle with 2 tsp. minced garlic, 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or parsley, 6 tbsp. melted butter or olive oil and/or 1 tbsp. lemon juice.
Pour in just enough white wine or fish stock to cover the bottom.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until prawn shells are pink.
Serve with the shells on or remove them before serving.