Pretty in pink: Maine shrimp season is NOW

Sandi Lynn Seabrook

We’ve been waiting for you, shrimp boat. In the cold and the snow.

Seabrook Harbor, New Hampshire on Monday, Jan. 28. Before dinner.

Sandi Lynn

The Sandi Lynn as seen from the pier at Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative.

A small fleet of trawlers brought in hundreds of pounds of Gulf of Maine shrimp late yesterday, on the second day they could fish this season for Pandalus borealis. The shrimp fishery is only open Mondays and Wednesdays, and maybe only for two or three weeks this year, depending how quickly the quota is reached.

Yankee Fisherman's Coop

Looking into the small retail market at Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative.

We weren’t the only ones waiting for shrimp. The boats were nearly an hour later than expected, and a small crowd had gathered. People were buying for personal consumption and resale, it seemed.

We decided to let the crowds clear out and we took a drive over the bridge to Wally’s Pub in Hampton Beach.

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I couldn’t resist checking in on Facebook and sharing the good news of our beer + snow discovery. We hoisted a few, and shared a plate of hot wings.

Outside the snow was falling, but it was toasty warm in Wally’s. “We have to keep the heat on high to keep the pipes from freezing,” the bartender told us. Works for me.

Yankee Fisherman's Coop

A couple of beers later, we were back at Yankee Fisherman’s Coop. We found the crowds had gone and there was still shrimp left. In the back room, a couple of hardworking guys were steaming lobsters.

Price of Maine shrimp

We paid $11.25 for 5 lbs of whole, unsorted (different sizes) Maine shrimp. Or New Hampshire shrimp, you could say. They had been iced down, but some of them were still moving a little.

lobster

We passed on lobster. Even though this one looked like he wanted to come home with us.

It’s a good time of year for lobster, if you like ’em meaty and hard-shelled. And demand is down compared to the summer tourist season.

shrimp boil

At home, we boiled water and cooked a few handfuls of shrimp for a couple of minutes. This beautiful dark pink color is how they come out of the ocean, before cooking.

The rest of our haul has been frozen, and we have bookmarked a few recipes to try. Here are some links, if you are curious… and lucky enough to find some local cold water shrimp in the next few weeks.

NPR: Maxing out the mini season for Maine shrimp

The season for trawlers began on Jan. 23, and they’re only allowed to shrimp on Mondays and Wednesday mornings. Fisherman using traps — which typically bring in more uniformly sized shrimp because holes in the trap let the little ones escape — can’t begin their shrimping until Feb. 5.

How long the season will last is anyone’s guess as weather and the shrimpers’ ability to locate the shrimp both play a role. Estimates range up to to six weeks, but many think it will be a lot shorter.

If early sales are any indication, the shrimp haul won’t last long in the shops.

The City Cook: What’s in season: Maine shrimp

The only disadvantage of cooking with these small shrimps is the added labor. That’s because they’re so tiny — about 50 shrimp to a pound. But the shells slip off easily making them less work than shelling gulf shrimp, plus there’s no vein to remove.

Maine shrimp can hold onto a bit of sand and so I recommend removing the shells before cooking. To remove the shell, take a shrimp in one hand, pinch its tail with your fingers and with your other hand, give a tug and the little, pink shrimp will usually slip out whole. If you’ve bought ones with heads, just pull that off first before the rest of the shell. Then give a rinse with cool water and with a paring knife, remove any spots or marks.

Remember to always keep shellfish cold and on ice right up to when you cook it. So if it takes you a while to clean your shrimp, keep a bowl of ice in your sink to keep the shrimp very chilled while you’re working with them. As with gulf shrimp, don’t overcook them because shrimp will become tough and rubbery if cooked for too long. They’re done when the flesh goes from translucent to opaque.

Maine shrimp can be cooked in a variety of ways but resist putting them with ingredients that can overwhelm their delicate, sweet taste. For example, the shrimp will work well with garlic or tomatoes but not a pungent cocktail sauce that you might use with meatier gulf shrimp.

Bangor Daily News: Don’t skimp on the shrimp: Maine shrimp season in full swing

Pandalus borealis sounds like something fantastical, like a figure from mythology or a legendary creature. It’s actually the scientific name for a little pink crustacean that fishermen pluck by the ton from the coldest parts of the ocean each winter — the tiny, briny, deliciously sweet wild Maine shrimp.

Maine shrimp before cooking

Eating words

st thomas

Husband woke me up with a texted view from his layover hotel this morning. He’s in St. Thomas.

Phone call from him later in the morning. “Whatcha doin’?”

“Picking the dead leaves off the philodendron. You?”

“Just finished breakfast. I might go for a run on the beach. It’s 85 degrees.”

It was 12 degrees here this morning. Oh comfort me with food…

food writing

Today after chicken chores, dog walk, vacuuming and making a big pot o’ damn hot chili, I will do some reading for a class that starts this week, Food Writing, at Harvard Extension School. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m hungry for it.

Also blogged today: Cold and ice make soup taste nice

Love this skit, from Portlandia…

Cold and ice make soup taste nice

Curried chicken and rice soup

Soup of the day, beautiful soup. Curried chicken and rice, to be precise, served in a pottery bowl made by a local high school art student.

The annual Empty Bowls fundraiser was held yesterday at the Winnacunnet High School dining hall from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. For a $15 donation to local food pantries, hungry charity-minded guests chose a bowl from a long table full of bowls of many colors and designs, then lined up for hot soup donated by local restaurants. For $5, we could get soup to go, in styrofoam containers. For $20, I did both – clam chowder was my other choice – so I could have soup for lunch and dinner on a day when I was the only one at home.

Empty home, full bowl.

I wrote about Empty Bowls for our local newspaper in 2008. I have a small collection of handmade bowls now. It’s a tradition.

“There is nothing like a plate or a bowl of hot soup, it’s wisp of aromatic steam making the nostrils quiver with anticipation, to dispel the depressing effects of a grueling day at the office or the shop, rain or snow in the streets, or bad news in the papers.”

– Louis P. De Gouy, ‘The Soup Book’ (1949)

Last night and early this morning was the Full Wolf Moon. Our cold snap continues and the wind is obnoxious. But as Seacoast Eat Local blog points out, there are reasons to embrace the cold. They link to Warren Farm’s blog…

Our natural defense against the soil pathogens is ground freeze. In regions where the ground does not freeze, soil fumigation is necessary to grow certain crops especially strawberries. Methyl Bromide is the only fumigant which has been successful although alternatives are being rapidly tested. Although Methyl Bromide was suppose to be banned by 2005, exemptions have been made yearly to continue use until an alternative is found. Methyl Bromide is a known ozone depleter. Ground freeze also aids soil condition by adding tilth, which is aeration of the soil.  The lack of production which has decimated the strawberry growers in this region during the last decade is primarily due to root rot. Hopefully Mother Nature will bless us with further ground freeze to alleviate this critical problem.

Freeze now, eat strawberries later.

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I took the long way home from Empty Bowls yesterday, out Winnacunnet Road to the beach. I stopped to watch a congregation of dabbling ducks in the marsh.

That is the Hampton Beach water tower beyond. It has been a local landmark since 1953.

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Ducks and a mini-ice floe.

One hundred and twenty miles to our north-northwest, Mount Washington

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had a 15-minutes of media fame earlier this week when temperatures dropped to -35 and wind chills made it feel like -86 and CNN, the Boston Globe, WMUR called and wanted to talk about the cold. This morning, it’s relatively balmy up there…

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What to serve

This was my dream last night. I only remember it because John got up to go to work at 3 a.m. and woke me up.

Thomas Jefferson had traveled into the future and he was going to have dinner with us. How delightful to have such a distinguished unexpected guest! We looked in the refrigerator and there was nothing we could think of putting together into a meal.

“Should we just order pizza?”

“Let’s ask him.”

Thomas Jefferson said he would be pleased to have pizza. He was being polite. We knew he didn’t know what it was.

“It’s like a pie,” we explained, “but it’s flat and it has cheese on top.”

“Should we order pepperoni? Then he can taste the most popular pizza of our time.”

“I think pepperoni might be too strongly flavored and unusual for him. Let’s get sausage.”

Then John woke me up to say good-bye and I said, “I dreamed Thomas Jefferson was coming to our house for dinner and we ordered a sausage pizza!”

“That’s oddly specific,” he said.

A few minutes after he pulled out of the driveway, I called his cell phone. “We told Thomas Jefferson that pizza was ‘like a pie, but it’s flat…’ (I started laughing helplessly) ‘…and it has cheese on top!'” Then I laughed until tears were squirting out of my eyes.

Perfect poultry

fresh-eggs-1874

Fresh Eggs, Winslow Homer, 1874

From The New Hampshire Writers’ Project, via a friend on Facebook…

Friday Freewrite: Open up the book closest to you. Turn to page 53. In the first paragraph, find the third line and use it as your opening. Finish the sentence or write out all of the associations you have with these words. Write for ten minutes.

The book closest to me was Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens. The first line of my freewrite is from the book. I used the sentence to write a paragraph.

Don’t be readily swayed by someone who just finished designing “the perfect chicken shelter.” Each button on his plaid flannel shirt jac is buttoned in its properly aligned buttonhole. He keeps back issues of Gentleman Organic Farmer and peruses Lighting Out for the Territory Prairie Grass Seed catalog. He custom blends his own poultry feed with red wheat, steel cut Scottish oats, sprouted soybeans, Stonyfield yogurt, spring-harvested herring from a local herring run, crushed crab shells he gathers from the beach after storms, and corn he forages from local backyards in late summer. He raises his own worms for compost and winter chicken dietary supplements. He plants free-range chicken gardens and cultivates medicinal weeds. He pollinates the weeds with heirloom bees. He has two perfectly trained livestock guardian dogs, a Great Pyrenees and a Kuvasz. He has a flock of English heritage breed chickens, featuring the Lavender Orpington and the Speckled Sussex. He also raises French Black Copper Marans for their dark chocolate colored eggshells; they were the favorite eggs of James Bond, he tells his breakfast guest, as he lifts his silver spoon and tap-tap-taps the shell of his perfectly soft-boiled egg. Don’t be swayed by him.

Hardcore winter

Old railroad trail through Hampton Marsh

Dirt road next to abandoned railroad, from Landing Road in Hampton Falls out into the Hampton Marsh. A good place for a walk in most seasons. But this season?

Our dog runs as fast as the wind, but in fact this is the wind making him look fast. We are having a run of brutally cold and windy weather. Temperatures are in the single digits and teens, and wind chills can be -15 or so.

Crusty ice in the marsh and marching lines of cold weather cumulus clouds. A palette of dead brown, ice blue and frost white. Do we embrace the season and dwell in it, endure it, appreciate it for what it is? Or huddle and hide from it? We are still deciding (she typed from a couch next to a warm fire).

Coming up this Saturday: Polar Grill Fest outdoors at the Redhook Brewery

Every hardcore New Englander knows that it’s always grilling time. It doesn’t matter if there’s three feet of snow on the ground, we’ll shovel a path, dust the snow off, and fire up the grill!

Wish you were here

Rotunda, Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Rotunda, Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Daughter Laura and I took a trip to the museum yesterday. Not crowded at all on a frigid Wednesday in late January! We visited special exhibits, Mario Testino: In Your Face, Divine Depictions: Korean Buddhist Paintings, Artful Healing, Cats to Crickets: Pets in Japan’s Floating World, and my favorite The Postcard Age.

Costumes for Boris Godunov, 1908 postcard

3 postcards: Costumes for Boris Godunov, by Ivan Bilibin, 1908

“These cards, which depict traditional costumes and medieval myths, typify the Russian version of art nouveau, with its combination of modern style and subjects relating to national identity. Inspired by actual textiles and accessories discovered in antique markets, Bilibin’s figures were brought to life in costume designs for productions by Serge Diaghilev, the Russian impresario who captivated Paris in the early 20th century.”

Caricatures of heads of state, 1905

Caricatures of heads of state, by GEO (Henri Jules Jean Geoffroy), 1905

“These postcards combine skilled caricature with collage elements like fabrics, painted papers, and sequins. Each card was assembled by hand, but repeated features, like Leopold of Belgium’s long white beard, allowed for assembly-line production. Such exaggeration was typical of political cartoons, and did not go unnoticed by the subjects; King Carlos I of Portugal (top right) even censored postcards that made fun of his weight.”

The subjects, from top left: Leopold II, king of Belgium; the Shah of Persia; Nicholas II, czar of Russia; Carlos I, king of Portugal; Wilhelm II, emperor of Germany; Theodore Roosevelt, president of the United States; Edward VII, king of the United Kingdom; Pope Pius X; Armand Faillieres, president of the French Republic; Christian XI, king of Denmark; George I, king of Greece; Franz Joseph I, emperor of Austria-Hungary.