Last week I went to a potluck, a big pot of meatballs in tote. When I arrived, a few appetizers lined the counter, including a bowl of tiny shrimp, hand picked by the host. I spied an open bottle of Ken's Cocktail Sauce (the only store-bought brand that can actually clear your nostrils with the kick of horseradish) and decided to pop a few shrimp into my mouth. (I had been prejudiced against these little crustaceans for a long while. I must have had a bad experience once, for I remember them to be slimy and fishy tasting, a la the party platters of prepackaged shrimp available at grocery stores.) The resulting joy I experienced was blissful. I proceeded to plant myself with my glass of wine in front of the bowl and eat as many as I could. They were meaty and flavorful, even plain and cold as they were. I was delighted by my discovery.
I vowed that come Friday I would pick up some five pounds of my own, peel them, and cook them up for a feast all by myself. Friday came and Friday went. No shrimp to be seen. What had happened to the truck I had seen filled with the orange critters in a car garage parking lot? Finally, on Saturday when I stopped at the truck on the road between Rockland and Camden, prepared to pay the premium price at this "more expensive" roadside stop. No shrimp. As I lamented the owner/driver/fishmonger explained that due to the intense winds I wouldn't find any fresh Maine shrimp. Plus the season had just ended.
I was dejected, and, as a Mainer, albeit recently returned, embarrassed by my ignorance of shrimp seasonality. I would be shrimp-less until December, relegated to imports from Thailand to satisfy my cocktail cravings.
That evening I attended a party at which I struck up a conversation with a nice man named Nelson. Part Spanish part Sicilian, this man talked about cooking with enviable passion. I, of course, shared my sob story of the shrimp that were not to be found. And to my surprise, he shared his shrimp, literally - a few pounds he had frozen in his freezer. Sure, it was already peeled so I didn't partake in the maddening experience of actually cleaning the things. But due to Nelson's generosity, I did get to cook and enjoy them all day yesterday. The recipe below was my favorite rendering, partially because the coconut evoked a tropical feeling that counteracted the chill outside the window.Coconut Maine Shrimp
Pour an inch or two of canola oil in a cast-iron pot or large saut` pan. Heat over medium-high heat. Mix some breadcrumbs and unsweetened coconut flakes with salt and pepper in a bowl. In another bowl, crack an egg and whisk. Take the raw shrimp and dip them in the egg, then roll them in the breadcrumb and coconut mix. Drop the coated shrimp in the hot oil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until the coating has browned slightly. Remove to a paper towel and sprinkle with salt. Enjoy with Ken's Cocktail Sauce.