Friday, January 29, 2010

garlic and lemon maine shrimp

maine shrimp over couscous
i have always been a horrible sleeper.
always. i have very vivid memories
of me, as an 8-year-old, getting
out of bed in the middle of the night,
wide-awake and looking for my father
who i knew would be downstairs,
also awake, playing computer
games. that's how i became so good
at tetris, so young.

i also have very vivid memories of me,
a freshman at college, not sleeping
at all - but not in the good way.
i would stay in my dorm room,
with my roommate sleeping one bed away
and wish that i could just sleep
like everyone else seemed to be able to do.

my problem has always been falling asleep.
once i did, though, i was out.

lately - even though, don't get me wrong,
many nights, i'm still awake way past when i
want to be - my biggest sleep problem is
actually staying asleep.

i wake up very early in the morning.
and that's it. i'm up.
or at the very least, i'm in that very
blurry awake-asleep stage where i'm
and it's all about work.
who needs that?

not me - and that's why at 4:19
this morning, as i was using sheer will
to coax myself back to sleep, but
instead kept remembering
three deadlines that i face today
when i get into work,
i decided to put this time to good
use and tell you about maine shrimp,
because i'm running out of time
on those, too.

maine shrimp, you see, are very
time-limited and it would be a shame
if i didn't write about them before
they are out of the markets and
you have to wait until next year.
so i have to tell you and get
rid of this guilt that it's taken me
so long - and maybe,
just maybe, it will help me sleep.
i can dream, right?

so anyway, the maine shrimp.

i have to admit that i'm a bit
of a shrimp snob. i like the big
ones, or at the very least, the almost
big ones. i'm not crazy about small
shrimp that curl up into bites of nothing
once they are cooked.

and so, even though i've spotted
very pink, small maine shrimp
in the market many times
over the past couple years, i've always
looked the other way. fool.

but, a couple weeks ago,
in the middle of grocery store,
i was offered one maine shrimp, raw.
i hesitated for a moment -
i love raw oysters, clams, fish
and now scallops, but to me, shrimp
always seemed like a seafood
better served cooked.

then the fishmonger told me that
these are the same shrimp that
are sold in sushi bars for $3,
two at a pop, over sushi rice.
he ate one, himself,
and i felt ridiculous and boring,
so i went for it.
the shrimp was amazing -
like nothing i ever had before:
sweet and buttery and what could
likely be a total addiction.
and they were $4.99 a pound.

that night, i brought six home
(they cost a little less than 50 cents)
and practically skipped in the house,
excited to reveal my find.
i peeled two, handed one to larry
and ate one myself.
yes, just as i remembered.
larry? not so into it.
he just could not get behind
the raw shrimp.
i was a little bummed.
peeled maine shrimp
but over the next week,
i started to research maine shrimp
and learned that they are only
available for a limited time each winter,
that in the northeast
(way in the northeast, we're talking
maine, massachusetts, rhode island -
not new york and new jersey),
people anxiously wait for them to
appear and that if cooked properly,
they are just as lovely.

and then, as i planned to pick up
a pound one night and i found a recipe,
a little bell went off in the back
of my head and i remembered why
maine shrimp carried an extra layer
of familiarity with them:
jen from last night's dinner had
referenced them (or, more specifically,
their stock) here, when she had cooked
my squid stew a couple months back.
(oh, and coincidentally, she made another
so then i knew this would be a very wise
$5 dollars spent:
dinner tonight,
stock for the future.
maine shrimp shells
when shrimp are so tiny,
a lot make up a pound and i was glad
when larry started peeling with me
(and i swear, i ate only one or two
in the process).
but once they were prepped, this
recipe from the washington post
came together very quickly.
in fact, the bulk of time was spent
waiting for the accompanying couscous
to cook.
maine shrimp, lemon zest, garlic
you zest a lemon,
chop a bunch of garlic,
crumble a dried chile.
the zest
and some of the garlic
are tossed with the raw shrimp
and then the remaining garlic
and the dried chile cook for
a few minutes in a bit of oil,
until they're sizzling.
that's when you add the shrimp,
immediately turn off the heat and toss.
and that's it.

and, cooked maine shrimp
are just as special as the raw.
they're lighter, but still sweet
and still buttery in texture.
larry, whose complaints vanished
once they were cooked,
said that they tasted like something
he couldn't quite identify,
similar enough to shrimp to be familiar,
but just different enough to stand out.

before the season runs out,
i hope to buy make stock
from the shells in the freezer,
buy another pound
and make maine shrimp risotto,
using both.

but for now,
i'm just glad the secret's out
(although it just occurred to me that
maybe i'm the only one who didn't
know about them before now):
maine shrimp are a lovely
limited-time treat.
if you see them, you should
get some and maybe even
cook them.

now that that's out -
one thing to cross
off my list -
maybe, i can go back
to sleep. i still have
an hour and a half before
i need to wake up.
unpeeled maine shrimp
garlic and lemon maine shrimp
adapted from the washington post
i would make this again, but i would double or triple the garlic and lemon, and instead of the dried chile, i would add a pinch or two of ground cayenne. i assume that the seasonings were kept on the light side so that the shrimp could really shine, but i like a lot more oomph in my food. oh, and on that note, the recipe doesn't say this, but i would absolutely finish the dish with a very big squeeze of lemon.

and, although i'm writing their version, below, i did make one change, which is reflected. instead of turning off the heat and then adding the shrimp, i added the shrimp and then turned off the heat. i know my stove and i knew that it would work better this way. oh, and the original recipe was for four, but i scaled it down to two (which is how i've written it).

i served the shrimp over lemony couscous, but they would also be great on their own, over a salad, on top of pasta or maybe, even with meat.

1 pound uncooked maine shrimp, peeled (they do not have to be deveined - and if you see any grey roe, just brush it away)
1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic, plus 1 medium clove, chopped
1 tablespoon freshly grated lemon zest
1-2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 dried chile pepper, crumbed (remove seeds and membrane for less heat) or a few pinches of ground cayenne

in bowl, combine shrimp, finely chopped garlic and lemon zest.

in large skillet, add oil to pan and heat over medium. as soon as the oil starts to make popping sounds, add the chopped garlic, salt to taste and the crumbled chili pepper. cook 2-3 minutes, or until the garlic sizzles and turns golden brown, stirring constantly.

add the shrimp; immediately turn off the heat. toss 1 minute, or until the shrimp are gently cooked. (if they seem like they need a little more cooking, turn the heat back on to medium and cook until heated through, stirring constantly.)

squeeze lemon over shrimp; toss to combine.


MrsWheelbarrow said...

what a wonderful post. today, i'm heading to the wholesale fish market to see if anyone brings these lovelies as far south as dc
thank you for the heads up. i'd read about maine shrimp in jen's post(s) and now, with yours, i'm so sure i am missing out! cheers, from one insomniac to another, cathy

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jenblossom said...

Yum yum yum :) I love these little beauties, and I'm glad you do, too!

As for the roe, I leave it - it makes a lovely addition to whatever you're cooking (as well as to the shrimp stock).

And you can order these online from Port Clyde Fresh Catch!