The Maine shrimp (Pandalus borealis) season just started and goes from December 1, 2007, through April 30, 2008 It is my first Maine shrimp season since I only moved to Mid-Coast Maine late last spring. I've been waiting ever since for the season to start, because while I've had them several times before as sushi, what the Japanese call ama ebi, or sweet shrimp; and here and there in soups and salads, but I've never had them fresh and never frozen. I would have been looking for them a few days ago but I have been at Cornell University's Agricultural Experimental Station In Geneva, NY for the past week, taking workshops on Artisan Distilling and Hard Cider Production.
Today as I was driving along running errands I saw a roadside truck which had them at $1.50 a lb., which is cheaper than I expected, although I heard just a few minutes ago that you can sometimes get them as low as 79 cents a lb. I slid on the icy and slushy road as I made a quick u-turn and then I skidded to a stop next to the truck and jumped out. I chatted for a bit with the vendor and then I picked up five pounds of these tiny beauties, all red and glistening, and smelling clean and sweet, with only a hint of brine to them.
As I got in my car I popped several out of their shells and ate them raw on my way home. Super sweet and tasty, and many were fat with roe. As soon as I got home I brought a pot of water to a boil, threw in a pound or so and turned off the heat. Three minutes later I dipped them out and let them cool a bit, after burning my fingers several times as I anxiously tried to dig in.
I soon found the technique to getting them out of their shells. You squeeze gently at the tail while squeezing on the head and half the meat pops out and then you grab that and gently pull and out the shrimp comes in one piece. gently is the key to shucking these tiny shrimp. At first I was popping them one at a time in my mouth. Boy were they good! Then I started shucking ten in a row and reserving the meat so I could have a mouthful at a time. I had some homemade cocktail sauce which I threw together quickly, but while the sauce was very tasty, I barely used any since the shrimp were so sweet and tender.
When I came upon one with roe I would just suck it down because this was the sweetest part. I usually am not a big roe or caviar fan since they are usually too salty or fishy tasting, but this shrimp roe was so sweet, tender, and elegant tasting.
I finally got full and threw the rest of the shrimp in to cook. This batch I only let sit in the hot water for two minutes because I planned on using them to make chowder, bisque and other recipes later. The gently cooked meat can be frozen for later use or kept in the fridge for several days.
If you live in New England near the coast you should be able to find them relatively easily. Otherwise you may have to ask your fishmonger to try and get them for you. Although I don't think it will be at 79 cents, or even $1.50 a lb.
Forester's Cocktail Sauce
There is no exact recipe for this sauce since I like to vary it a bit every time I make it.
Organic Heinz Ketchup
Sriracha sauce or Chili-Garlic paste
Grade B Maple Syrup
Add each to taste and stir. Put in the fridge and chill for at least 30 minutes so it can all come together. This is spicy with a good kick to it, and slightly sweet and full of flavor.
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