Maine Shrimp Season is always cause for celebration here in New England. Though short and sweet like the delicate pink crustaceans: just 136 days, the fishery is sustainablewith catches closely monitored and regulated.
Maine shrimp are not what most people expect, they are smaller, sweeter, delicate in comparison to their cousins from the Gulf of Mexico with their white-gray color and meatier chunkiness. Envision Maine’s petite wild blueberries compared to the larger cultivated berries, it is the same difference.
A shiny pink-to-red color, Maine shrimp are usually sold with the head and tail intact. Unlike most shrimp, which have been frozen at some point, Maine shrimp are sold and shipped fresh from the cold Atlantic depths off the coasts of Maine and Massachusetts, never frozen.
Although the weather has gone topsy-turvy causing a ruckus in the food chain, Maine shrimp season was still wonderful. Running from December to April, markets receive shipments of this shrimp erratically, each year is unique, so call your fish monger ahead of time to make sure these little sweeties are available. Though the season is virtually past (unless you happen to know a Maine shrimper), these recipes can be made with other varities of shrimp.
Makes 4 servings
The first step is to beheaded your shrimp if the fishmonger has not done it for you. Reserve the heads and shells, you'll be using them to make the stock.
To remove the shell, take a shrimp in one hand, pinch its tail with your fingers, give a tug with your other hand and the little, pink shrimp will usually slip out whole. Rinse with cool water. Remember to always keep shellfish cool. It can take a while to peel your shrimp, so keep a bowl of ice in your sink they can chill in.
Making stock from scratch is a bit time-consuming, but quite simple and well worth the effort. It builds a flavor-packed foundation for this savory soup, is a delicious base for a risotto or a creamy shrimp sauce, or flavoring for any variety of other soups and sauces. With this bisque recipe keep in mind the shrimp is the star, a little sherry goes a long way.
INGREDIENTS 2 pounds Maine shrimp, shells and heads on
Clean the shrimp, removing heads and shells. Set aside.
Combine the sherry and water and bring to a boil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the shells and heads and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from burner, while working the next step. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter with a splash of olive oil over medium heat. Add celery, shallots, fennel, carrots and bay leaf, stir until soft. Turn shells, heads and liquid mixture into pot, cover and simmer for 25 minutes. Strain though a colander, pressing on the solids to remove all liquid. Set aside.
In a medium sauce pan, melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and whisk in flour to form a roux. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes on low. Make sure all flour is incorporated being careful not to burn. Slowly whisk in shrimp stock and simmer entire mixture until smooth. Add tomato paste, saffron, salt, pepper, Old Bay Seasoning and dry mustard to taste. Add shrimp, cream, and more sherry if desired. Gently stir until shrimp are heated through. Do not bring to a boil. Serve immediately.
MAINE SHRIMP SALAD
4 servings (Adapted from a recipe published in The Washington Post, 2009)
I originally made this Maine shrimp recipe for friends, marinating them briefly in citrus juice as called for: it was a disaster! I ended up marinading the shrimp then cooking the batch lightly (until the shrimp curl) and leaving it all to rest in the refrigerator overnight to marry the flavors.
INGREDIENTS 1/2 pound peeled and beheaded Maine Shrimp 1/4 cup extra-virgin Olive Oil 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed Lemon 1 Tablespoons finely chopped Fresh Cilantro ( or about 1 teaspoons dried Cilantro) 4 slices crisped Bacon Freshly ground Black Pepper 1 teaspoon Spanish Paprika dash of Dill dash of Ground Ginger dash of Salt 3 cups (more or less) Boston Bibb and Baby Spinach 1 small Fennel Bulb several bulbs Pickled Garlic, diced small DIRECTIONS Combinethe shrimp, 2 Tablespoons of olive oil, the lemon juice, cilantro, diced Pickled Garlic, dill, ginger and salt in a medium bowl. Sprinkle lightly with freshly ground black pepper, paprika, dash of salt. Toss well. Place mixture in pan over medium heat for several minutes until shrimp curl. This step should only take a few minutes. Remove from heat. Let cool and place in refrigerator until ready to make salad. Clean, rinse and dry the lettuce. Arrange the leaves (Boston Lettuce topped with Baby Spinach) on the salad plates. Use a very sharp knife to shave the fennel bulb, and then distribute the shavings over the plated lettuce. Crumble crisped Bacon and arrange over lettuce. Dribble the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the salad bed. Top each plate with shrimp and marinade. Garnish with the leafy green fronds of fennel tops. Serve immediately.