January 15

Soup to Nuts: Making do without fresh Maine shrimp

With 2014 being the shrimp season that wasn’t, what to toss into those chowders, risottos and stir-fries?

By Meredith Goad mgoad@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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Jeff Buerhaus, chef/owner of Walter’s, has switched to Laughing Bird, a sustainably farmed Caribbean shrimp, for his small plate appetizer of shrimp tacos.

Photos by Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

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Buerhaus says the texture of the Laughing Bird shrimp is a little firmer than that of Maine shrimp, and the meat is not as sweet.

Additional Photos Below

Sam Hayward, chef/owner of Fore Street in Portland, has experimented with Nova Scotia northern shrimp this year, and found them lacking.

Hayward says his favorite way to use Maine shrimp – one of his favorite seafoods – is to serve them raw and well chilled on a raw seafood appetizer plate.

“We prepare them by shelling, then tossing the uncooked tail meats with a few drops of some acidic liquid – verjuice, lemon, malt or cider vinegar, and I’d love to try juiced raw cranberries and rhubarb as well – seconds before serving,” he said in an email. “The proteins in the meats aren’t ‘cooked’ by the acidity, as in ceviche, but only slightly set on the surface. We refer to this as ‘shocking’ the shrimp, and sometimes do similar preps with Nantucket bay scallops. On the plate, the shrimp may be sprinkled with some crunchy Maine sea salt, possibly one of the sea-vegetable salt mixes we make, plus perhaps some Aleppo pepper.”

Hayward says he’s been “disappointed” by the quality of the Nova Scotia shrimp he has tried. One batch came in frozen, another frozen-then-thawed.

“When we finally received fresh shrimp, they tasted and smelled old and we made a decision to hold off any further purchases until quality could be assured,” he said. “For the record, our fishmonger had alerted us that it would be challenging to find shrimps from away that matched the quality of shrimp from local boats.

“I miss Maine shrimps, and I hate not being able to serve them on our winter menus.”

Other restaurants have found the Canadian shrimp a good substitute.

Melissa Bouchard, chef at DiMillo’s on the Water in Portland, said the restaurant is using shrimp sourced from Canada now and has no plans to change its menu. If things do change, she said, they’ll look for a sustainable alternative.

Jeff Buerhaus, chef/owner of Walter’s, has switched to Laughing Bird, a sustainably farmed Caribbean shrimp, for his small plate appetizer of shrimp tacos with lime, chiles, roasted corn, mango and smoked chile mayo.

The texture is a little firmer than Maine shrimp, he said, and the meat is not as sweet.

Harding Smith, owner of four restaurants in Portland, said he had been serving Maine shrimp frozen until his supply ran out several weeks ago. He’s tried the Laughing Bird shrimp “with some success,” and is now using Gulf of Mexico shrimp in wok dishes and a giant Gulf shrimp at the raw bar at Boone’s Fish House & Oyster Room.

“But as far as a Maine shrimp substitute,” he said, “there is nothing that compares to the sweet little morsels.”

Other chefs are giving up on shrimp this season and turning to other kinds of seafood currently available from the Gulf of Maine.

Mitchell Kaldrovich, chef at Sea Glass at the Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, says that for his popular Maine seafood paella, he’ll make up for the lack of northern shrimp by adding more mussels, clams, calamari and lobster.

The chefs at Hugo’s will rely on other seafood products such as dayboat scallops, razor clams and local groundfish to feed their customers.

They’ve turned down the chance to buy fresh shrimp from Canadian wholesalers, and tend not to use farmed shrimp from other countries because they don’t think they are a good replacement for Maine shrimp.

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Additional Photos

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A catch of Maine shrimp in better times.

Press Herald file

  


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