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Gulf of Maine Shrimp - 2006/2007


johnnyd
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Everyone interested in this topic should grab a copy of the latest (Feb.) issue of Down East magazine & read the cover story about Maine Shrimp carefully; particularly the comments from a certain former sea urchin diver..... :smile:

And keep buying those shrimp!

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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particularly the comments from a certain former sea urchin diver..... smile.gif

Busted!!! :biggrin:

I think the advent of passionate on-line culinary discussion like those on eGullet is really the story. I can't count the members here who have shown me extraordinary things from far corners of the globe. They inspired me to raise my hand and talk about Maine's seafood, with which I have had an intimate relationship for some years.

But I can't possibly match the knowledge of so many around me on this coast - some of whom have given there lives so others can enjoy the bounty of the oceans - we are all in their debt.

Downeast Magazine is published in Rockport Maine. I was contacted in December and apparently my three year old Gulf of Maine Shrimp thread (okay, Odyssey!)was respected enough to include me in this excellent article by Mr. Joshua Moore available for a very limited time here.

[John Norton, Cozy Harbor Seafood says:] "This is considered the finest northern shrimp in the world, with the biggest size, the sweetest taste, the best texture. The marketplace is set to respond to that, and I think you're going to see that Maine shrimp is again going to find a place in the supermarkets here in the United States."

Such entrepreneurial visions are only a portion of the recipe to rebuild Maine's shrimp industry, according to John Dennison, a former chef and urchin diver who has studied the Maine shrimp industry for several years. Dennison [johnnyd] says that a state-sponsored marketing campaign similar to the Maine Lobster Promotion Council could help boost the tiny crustacean's culinary status, but local chefs might play an even bigger role in popularizing Maine shrimp. "There has to be a leader in the local culinary world who will take these shrimp and just show the world, whether it's on television or some other venue, what you can do with them," Dennison says. "I see this culinary jewel, and we just need to create an industry for our growing culinary notoriety."

Two recipes appear in this issue from Bar Lola's Josh Potocki and Guy Hernandez [100 Congress St]. One is Shrimp on a Shingle (topped with a fried egg), and the other is Fava with Maine Shrimp, Oregano, and Ouzo, both look delicious.

Added within the recipes are more reflections by yours truly about how Maine shrimp's tiny size are well-suited for the current trend in micro-cuisine such as those championed at Alinea. Hey, I was on a roll! :wink:

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Thanks for the link to the article, JohnnyD. Cool!

I was in Whole Foods in Bedford, MA this a.m. where they had 40# of Maine shrimp for sale. The counter guy said it was moving fast priced at $5.99/#. They will be getting more in over the next few weeks -- he recommended calling first.

P.S. shrimps are headless.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

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The shrimp are back at my local NJ Whole Foods locations too this week. Maybe somebody in WF management reads Down East. :biggrin:

Johnnyd, I have been trying your peeling technique, actually evolved something very similar the week before your most excellent illustrated guide. It works consistently on about 2/3 of the shrimps, but I consistently have the same problem with the other 1/3 -

when I squeeze the tail section of the shell, it separates from the main piece of the shell, which remains wrapped around the body of the shrimp. I then have to give the underside of the shell a little slice with a paring knife; if I try to pull it off without that step, it still remains attached & the shrimp itself tears in two.

I'm wondering if this occurs because you are dealing with fresher shrimp than I can get, & something begins to happen to the shells & their bond with the shrimp the longer they've been out of water.

Or maybe you were just born with better hand skills than I can ever hope for. :laugh:

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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when I squeeze the tail section of the shell, it separates from the main piece of the shell, which remains wrapped around the body of the shrimp.

Holding the tail acts as an anchor so that you can "unwrap" the body. After that, pinch the tail. If I'm reading this right, you are pinching the tail first.

Another variation (a bit faster too) is to aim your thumbnail at the legs and pull to the right (right-handed people) and around the back. This unwraps the shrimp quite neatly - especially when cooked because then you can pop it in your mouth just before pinching it out of the tail section. Works well for larger shrimp.

925: That's a bargain price. I'd estimate about fifty to the pound. How are you serving them?

Ellie: Cod cheeks and tongues were at Harbor Fish Mkt for $3.99. Honestly though, that chowder was something I'd serve at Halloween: The cod was kinda gelatinous in places and looked like eyeballs; the shrimp looked like some kind of bug or grub-like creature and the blue potato was just bizarre - turned the chowder a weird color too. Little thyme leaves could have been ants... maybe the arctic blasts are warping my brain a bit! :wacko:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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I boiled one pound of them in a bath of water, beer, lemon, peppercorns, a bay leaf and a little Old Bay. (They needed about 30 seconds of cooking.) Those I peeled for my (lazy) husband and son to eat. :raz:

With my pound, I made this:

gallery_12215_2917_414807.jpg

It's a very thin, light shrimp chowder -- I'm on an athletic training diet, so we're trying to keep things light around here. It's a lot like the recipe above, except I used sherry, added extra hot pepper, and used only a touch of cream. I used very little tomato paste to get the color -- the pink is mostly from the shrimp. The broth is extremely flavorful, as well as filling. Yummy!

Edited by ninetofive (log)

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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It's a very thin, light shrimp chowder -- I'm on an athletic training diet

Boston Marathon, perhaps? I see a traditional pre-marathon, carbo-load with pasta smothered in fresh shrimp in your future. That chowder-lite looks tasty, Diane.

Bask in your own glory.

Guaranteed, thanks to that recipe Timh! Thanks a lot - I'm trying it this week. Say, what place in Plymouth do you work for?

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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Boston Marathon, perhaps? I see a traditional pre-marathon, carbo-load with pasta smothered in fresh shrimp in your future. 

Nope, triathlons -- two of them, this summer, and I don't want to be lugging an extra 20 lbs across the finish line come July.

Diana Burrell, freelance writer/author

The Renegade Writer's Query Letters That Rock (Marion Street Press, Nov. 2006)

DianaCooks.com

My eGullet blog

The Renegade Writer Blog

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WGME ch13 news had a segment on the Shrimp Situation this evening.

- Longer season, major landings - no maine-based buyers, low prices.

- Customers featured at fish store: "It's the best bargain in the state".

- One fellow drove from Mass. to buy five pounds - was that you Timh?

- Host showed bag of farm-raised, Thai shrimp for 15 bucks and compared to local fresh product at $4 "Pretty soon, these foreign shrimp will be all we have available".

- Guy at a seafood wholesaler says, "If it weren't for the huge volume of harvest, there'd be no point in leaving the harbor for shrimp"

Missed the segment but Mrs. johnnyd was on top of things as usual. :smile:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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hey johnnyd, wish I had a moment to get away and buy the shrimp myself, but I'm buried here at the resaurant, Enoteca Di Vino, in Plymouth Centre. We've been open for 2+ weeks now(dinner). Any gulleteers come by, please say hello. My seafood purveyor, out of Bourne, Ma seems to be haviong either a hard time getting the shrimp, or is just lazy. We are a demanding house, I only use local fish, dayboat if available, acheiving almost complete organic/natural in our menu. Want to do my part in promoting the good stuff around here, just need to connect with those that will help me do it.

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when I squeeze the tail section of the shell, it separates from the main piece of the shell, which remains wrapped around the body of the shrimp.

Holding the tail acts as an anchor so that you can "unwrap" the body. After that, pinch the tail. If I'm reading this right, you are pinching the tail first.

Another variation (a bit faster too) is to aim your thumbnail at the legs and pull to the right (right-handed people) and around the back. This unwraps the shrimp quite neatly - especially when cooked because then you can pop it in your mouth just before pinching it out of the tail section. Works well for larger shrimp.

Ah, yes, I was pinching the tail first. (Hmm this is sounding a bit risque.) I'll have to refocus.

We are talking about peeling raw shrimp, right? You mention "when cooked" above. It makes sense that the cooked ones would hold together better & be easier to peel, but I seem to prefer cooking the raw ones. Maybe I need to rethink my whole approach.

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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Not to worry: The technique is for raw and cooked. Cooked ones are easier because of their firmness. When raw, a gentler hand is recommended but the motions are the same.

I find when the shrimp is smaller or damaged, I just bag it and put them into the shrimp-for-stock pile.

head on 3.99 per pound, 5 or more pounds 2.99 per.

Somebody is making some money here I hope. I saw $0.79/lb for 5lbs+ the other day. Shit, I should fill up my coolers and start driving south... :blink::biggrin:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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In an effort to see if SouthEast Mass. has any Gulf of Maine shrimp available for Timh or anybody else, I put a few calls in to the area.

1-Do you carry fresh, whole gulf of Maine shrimp?

2-Have you ever carried gulf of Maine shrimp?

3-Do you plan to ever carry gulf of Maine shrimp?

Results:

Bourne:

Royal Greenland - no/no/no

Harvester - no/no/no

New Bedford:

Eastern - no/no/no

Atlantic - scallops only

Tokai - no/yes/maybe

The fellow from Tokai International said they did some buying years ago then decided to invest in a small processing outfit in Bristol Maine in the late 90s. "That was back when they cost three times what they are now," said he. The seasons were very short and things didn't go as well as hoped so they shut it down. Noticing the current price, they looked into doing it again but haven't made a decision.

He (never got his name) gave me the name of an outfit in Rockland, ME called Oak Island Seafood. I chatted with Director of Sales, Todd Mooers, for a bit. I asked if they were doing anything with gulf of Maine shrimp these days and I'm pleased to report they were indeed. His take on the market was that Maine product was larger (70-90/kg) and much more flavorful than similar shrimp currently for sale (approx 120/kg). The Oak Island operation handles high-quality processing serving an international clientele from a 25,000 sq/ft facility. They move about 4 million pounds of seafood per year. Todd says they have buyers in China and Europe of a carefully cooked, head-on, and tails-on Maine shrimp. They are aiming for processing 20k/kg per day and seem to be hitting the mark. We had a fascinating conversation and I am happy to report that there is hope for world-wide recognition for this delicacy thanks to folks like Oak Island.

The problem remains: How do we ship fresh shrimp to New York City and beyond? :huh:

Edited by johnnyd (log)

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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The problem remains:  How do we ship fresh shrimp to New York City and beyond? :huh:

Do whatever Whole Foods in Jersey does.

Maybe they have it in NYC too, for all I know. The real question, how do we turn it into a Broadway show? :raz:

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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The problem remains:  How do we ship fresh shrimp to New York City and beyond? :huh:

Do whatever Whole Foods in Jersey does.

Maybe they have it in NYC too, for all I know. The real question, how do we turn it into a Broadway show? :raz:

Whole Foods covers the retail/consumer end when possible using their dedicated outlet distribution channels, and they probably don't want to screw around with the additional headaches involved with deliveries to restaurants.

I envision "The Shrimp Man" meeting the boats and loading totes into a truck with a proper refrigeration unit, then hits the road with a pre-configured delivery route. If the boats off-load at 7pm, he's in Boston in two hrs, Plymouth an hour later, swings through connecticut and then New York by around 4 or 5am, and back home by noon.

On this schedule, how do chefs feel about paying $5 per pound, delivered? Minimum 20lbs - cash on delivery. If the dish-du-jour uses 6 - 8oz of "Fresh Maine Shrimp" that were in the ocean yesterday and charges $20 - $25, six or seven covers pay for the load+labor and you spin the rest of it into bisque at $9 - $11/bowl...

...This show is in Previews! Tickets on sale now! :biggrin:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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The operative concept being proper refrigeration unit throughout the process....The local Stop and Shop in Falmouth, MA had Maine shrimp for $4.95 a lb recently, and although I usually never buy fish there, I figured I'd give it a try. Big mistake. Got it home and took one whiff of the bag - ammonia. Rinsed them off well, cooked them, shelled them and still got the ammonia. (Although I usually go to a local fish market instead of a supermarket, I naively thought that they'd be a little more aware of product handling, especially since their prices are almost the same as the fish market's.) This isn't helping the market for this product.

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My local Whole Foods is trying a new tack in their efforts to move the shrimp: $9.99 / lb, shelled & deveined.

I bit, & bought, since the alternative was to go another day without eating some Maine shrimp.

It's an interesting approach: bring the price UP to appeal to the moneyed class that shops there, & offer convenience to those who actually cook the stuff themselves.

I mean, if it costs almost as much as previously farmed frozen shrimp from Thailand, it must be almost as good, right? :wink:

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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If your buying habits take you back to Whole Foods soon, Mr. GRider, glance at the shrimp shelf and see how it's moving. Ask the fishmonger too.

wlg: THat's a big-time bummer buy at Sn'S. I took a similarly smelly purchase back to our local Hannaford and they reimbursed me. Every time since the shrimp has been excellent (heads-off, $3.99/lb).

Handling of this product has still to be worked out it seems. :hmmm:

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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If your buying habits take you back to Whole Foods soon, Mr. GRider, glance at the shrimp shelf and see how it's moving. Ask the fishmonger too.

I'm in the store 2-3 times a week & always check the shrimp situation. There were none to be seen for a full 2 weeks, then they reappeared the week of 1/22.

I was going to ask the fish person about the changes but it was someone brand-new who'd never been behind that counter till this week. I didn't think she'd know anything so I didn't bother. I do have the phone # of the Seafood Team Leader (what is a "fishmonger"? :laugh: ) from the previous counter guys, I may call him at some point.

EDIT UPDATE 1/31 6:53 PM:

We had the shelled shrimp last night. It was bland & had a peculiar crumbly texture. Not a hint of ammonia but otherwise seemed a bit old. Not much of the usual sweetness left to them. If that were my first exposure to Maine shrimp I would definitely be wondering what all the fuss was about.

I'm thinking that this may be just the way they get when they've been too long out of the shell even if they aren't technically too old for consumption.

The shelled ones are moving almost imperceptibly. One of the regular counter guys was there today, he said that they were trying different things to see what sells best & will probably revert to shells on next week. Apparentlly they have a choice of how they come from Seafood Central Distribution. I mentioned the lack of flavor to him, he said something philosophical & commented that the shelled shrimps didn't look as appetizing as the ones with shells on. I thought they looked OK but lacked that brilliant color you get with the whole animal.

Edited by ghostrider (log)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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We had the shelled shrimp last night. It was bland & had a peculiar crumbly texture. Not a hint of ammonia but otherwise seemed a bit old. Not much of the usual sweetness left to them. If that were my first exposure to Maine shrimp I would definitely be wondering what all the fuss was about.

Hmmm. I'd venture to say they might have been frozen and thawed for display. Sounds like it's possible but I wonder... BTW, How did you prepare/serve them?

There is a real problem in handling here. Someone's got to invent a method or package. I had some PMs with theclash about transporting shrimp from Maine to southern areas - he came up with some clean, durable ice-cream boxes. Ingenious!

Had a conversation recently about shrimp service - one way is piles of peel&eat shrimp with melted butter or some other dip. Hey, MD does it with crab. Why don't Old Port restaurants offer piles of these things during happy hour? I bet you'd cause a wave of attention if they were offered FREE with the purchase of a beverage from 5 to 7p.

Another inventive way we thought of, although less likely to catch on, is shrimp fondue. How about spearing a couple shell-on (or better: head-on!) shrimp and place in pot of simmering broth or bay/peppercorn water, then peel and dip in choice of four sauces, at a table with six friends? How festive!

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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We had the shelled shrimp last night. It was bland & had a peculiar crumbly texture. Not a hint of ammonia but otherwise seemed a bit old. Not much of the usual sweetness left to them. If that were my first exposure to Maine shrimp I would definitely be wondering what all the fuss was about.

Hmmm. I'd venture to say they might have been frozen and thawed for display. Sounds like it's possible but I wonder... BTW, How did you prepare/serve them?

The sign on the shrinp bin said "Fresh/wild caught." Can we believe the signs at WF?

Frozen - now that you mention it, they were sitting naked on a bed of ice with no shells to protect their tender flesh, so maybe that had an effect.

This was my usual lemon juice & linguini preparation, which I've done a dozen or so times. The difference this time was huge.

WF seems to do a good job with the handling as long as they leave 'em in their shells; apart from this instance I've never had a problem with freshness. (Can't say the same for Stop & Shop, which stocked them intermittently last year.)

Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea? How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea!

- Sydney Smith, English clergyman & essayist, 1771-1845

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We plan on heading up to WF and TJs in Framingham, MA tomorrow and I hope to hook-up with some fresh Maine shrimp. I have plans for some shrimp Fra Diavlo on angel hair pasta and perhaps freezing a few pounds. I'll report my findings.

Cheers,

HC

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Well, WF did indeed have fresh Maine shrimp. They were headless, raw and peeled for $9.99 / lb. At least they are trying to carry them. I moved on to the lamb and dry aged beef with some dissapointment. I do hope to get some whole or headless unpeeled at a better price before the season is over.

Cheers,

HC

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We have a bone-chilling forecast for the next few days...

STONINGTON ME TO MERRIMACK RIVER MA OUT TO 25 NM-

942 AM EST MON FEB 5 2007

...GALE WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT THROUGH LATE TONIGHT...

.THIS AFTERNOON...W WINDS 25 TO 30 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 40 KT. SEAS

5 TO 8 FT. A CHANCE OF SNOW SHOWERS. FREEZING SPRAY. VSBY 1 TO 3 NM.

.TONIGHT...W WINDS 20 TO 25 KT WITH GUSTS UP TO 35 KT. SEAS 4 TO

7 FT. HEAVY FREEZING SPRAY.

With temperatures in the single-digits, I don't think there will be shrimp on the market from today until the weekend when things settle down. I could be wrong: there are some intrepid guys on those boats.

"I took the habit of asking Pierre to bring me whatever looks good today and he would bring out the most wonderful things," - bleudauvergne

foodblogs: Dining Downeast I - Dining Downeast II

Portland Food Map.com

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