Little Pink Wonders
I (like the rest of America, apparently) love shrimp. I try to be responsible when it comes to eating, and unless I know shrimp are local, I won't order them in a restaurant. And at home, I only cook wild American shrimp or domestically farmed varieties. Right now I'm reveling in the fact that it's Maine shrimp season. If you've been to a fish market lately and noticed a tangled pile of pint-sized, deep-salmon-colored shrimp-heads and all-that almost resemble big insects, it's probably them. Don't let their diminuative size, beady eyes, bright red feelers or the mass of gray roe that often carpets their undersides scare you away-they might just be the most delicious, sweet and tender shrimp you'll ever eat! I first discovered them in a Food Emporium supermarket (!) about 12 years ago, and I had a great deal going with the fish department manager for a number of seasons: he'd call when the season started and I'd check in with him on delivery day twice a week to set aside several pounds for me. The supermarket closed to make room for a drugstore (at least it wasn't a nail salon!) and my shrimp pimp disappeared. Happily, Maine shrimp resurfaced in profusion at fish markets a couple of years ago, and we've been feasting on them ever since.
I guess I need to qualify "we." My husband actually finds these shimp way too tedious to get at and my daughter thinks they're "gross." My son and my mother agree that they're divine and worth the effort, like peanuts freshly roasted in the shell. The only work these shrimp require, pre-cooking, is a quick rinse. If you've ever enjoyed "sweet shrimp" at a Japanese restaurant, they were probably these Maine shrimp, or their West Coast cousins, Oregon pink shrimp. So sometimes we just pop off the heads and shells and eat them just like that. Raw or cooked, their flavor is so delicate that the less you do with them, the better. They're delicious simply scorched in a well-seasoned cast-iron skillet with a little coarse salt, sauteed in good olive oil with slivers of garlic and a sprinkling of crushed red pepper, or cooked ever so briefly in a pot of boiling salted water. Serve them with lemon and homemade mayonnaise-either plain or punched up with a chopped herbs or a dab of harissa.
If you're trying to be conscientious about your seafood consumption, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Seafood Choices for a listing of fish and shellfish you can feel good about eating.