08 February, 2010

Maine Cold Water Shrimp

One of the things I look forward to every year is the annual Maine shrimp season.  For a couple of months every winter, Maine fishermen bring in a harvest of delicious small pink shrimp (Pandalus borealis) from the cold, clean waters of the North Atlantic.  The shrimp are tiny but unparalleled in flavor, and most important to me, they're a seasonal New England product and fit my general philosophy of eating locally-sourced foods in season (when I'm not eating canned crap that no sane individual will try, like Banner Sausage or Pork Brains in Milk Gravy.)

Although these shrimp are on the small side, I favor them over most other varieties for a number of reasons.  The taste is one: they're sweet and tender with a clean shrimp flavor.  They're easy to shell whether you peel them raw for a recipe or wait until after you cook them.  And most importantly, I know where they come from.

The fact is, the more I learned about how imported farmed shrimp are raised, processed, and transported,  the less eager I was to want to eat them, until I finally just quit the imported southeast Asian prawns altogether. 

Over the weekend, I picked up a four-pound bag of shrimp at the local Shaw's, and we had a great time cooking with these little treasures.

  • Fried Shrimp - After shelling a bunch of the shrimp, I ran them through a egg/buttermilk wash and lightly dredged them in flour seasoned with good Hungarian paprika and Old Bay Seasoning.  With a tossed salad and a basket of waffle fries, we had a wonderful Friday night feast.
  • Leave the shells on and plunge the shrimp into a pot of boiling water for a little over a minute; chill with a rinse under cold running water, and you're ready for cold peel-and-eat shrimp.  Small but satisfying, the flavor even comes through when you serve them with your own homemade cocktail sauce.
  • How about a delicious pasta dish?  Cook a package of spinach foglie d'ulivo (olive leaf) pasta.  Drain the pasta, toss it with some olive oil to keep it from sticking together, and set it aside.  Meahwhile, melt four tablespoons of butter in a skillet.  Add three small crushed and chopped garlic cloves, a sprinkling of mixed Italian Seasoning, a sprinkling of Hungarian paprika, and a grind of black pepper to taste.  Add about 2 pounds of shelled Maine shrimp and squeeze a fat wedge of lemon over them; shake and toss over medium-high heat until the shrimp is just done - about a minute and a half, and don't overcook them!  To serve, pile up some pasta leaves on a plate, top with as many shrimp as you like, and spoon over some of the sauce that will have formed in the pan as the shrimp was cooked.  It's awesome.
We're lucky this year: The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission's Northern Shrimp Section approved an extension of the 2009-2010 shrimp fishing season to 180 days thanks to abundant stocks and the absence of overfishing, and there are plenty of shrimp hitting seafood counters around New England.  Take advantage of it, and give the Maine shrimp a try. 


tree ocean said...

I think I would recommend snapping the heads off before boiling /steaming/poaching them. :) I just bought 5 pounds off a truck in Rockland for $1 a pound. I picked them all and froze most of them.

First night I fried them-skipped the egg wash step and just dredged them in flour/cracker meal. They came out lightly breaded...then for lunch I sauteed some in garlic and butter, poured in some jarred Alfredo sauce, and served over pasta. Lots of good ways to cook them, thanks for sharing yours...

tree ocean said...

sorry saw the pix after my comment and saw the shrimp are already beheaded! LOL