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. Whether you’re buying it from a seafood truck on the side of the road, from a fish market, a food co-op or from a supermarket, you’re buying a delectable, sustainable source of protein that was caught, processed and distributed entirely by Mainers.

Some of those Mainers are the folks at Port Clyde Fresh Catch in Port Clyde who supply restaurants, casual shoppers and members of its co-op with pounds of shrimp meat each week — as well as fish, lobster, crab, scallops and other ocean treats.

“Our co-op subscribers have been down a bit this year, but that’s only because our products are a lot easier to come by in stores, so people can go out and get it whenever they want,” said Jessica Libby, business manager for Port Clyde Fresh Catch. “The weather hasn’t really cooperated this year as far as the catch goes, but when they do go out fishing, they bring out a really good volume.”

The shrimp season starts Dec. 1 and continues through April 15, though a strong catch could force it to close early, as it did last year when the catch exceeded the limit by 60 metric tons. Last year, PCFC began processing seafood as well as selling it whole, meaning that they can sell shelled, deveined shrimp to the public, as well as whole shrimp.

“People definitely tend to buy shelled, as opposed to whole, because it’s just a lot easier,” said Libby. “It can get a little messy, shelling several pounds of shrimp.”

Messy, yes, but if you are a smart shopper it can be cost-effective. One pound of whole shrimp can sell for anywhere from $1.50 to $3 a pound, and yields about a half-pound or slightly more of shrimp meat. Compare that to a pound of shrimp meat that costs either $5 or $6 a pound.

The amount of shrimp caught in recent years means that some of the bounty goes out of state. Last year, PCFC began selling shrimp in Rhode Island and New York. Once a month, market-goers at the New Amsterdam Market in Manhattan can buy Maine seafood from PCFC, though the market season doesn’t start again until March.

Aside from that, wild shrimp are still, in many ways, a local delicacy for Mainers. Restaurants such as Suzuki Sushi Bar in Rockland, Paolina’s Way in Camden and Cleonice in Ellsworth all use Maine shrimp in menu items. Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda in Rockland loves Maine shrimp for a variety of reasons — but he’s careful to make sure they are cooked in way that leaves them neither under- nor overcooked.

“They’re almost not comparable, in some fashion, to any other shrimp,” said Altiero. “They require very delicate handling, because they’re easy to either undercook and have it be mush, or overcook and have them be like little erasers on pencils. You’ve got to treat them gently.”

Though Altiero says one of the best ways to cook them is the age-old Maine favorite method of breading and deep-frying, he likes poaching or searing shrimp just as much.

“We’ll poach them ahead of time and toss them in a dish at the very finish,” said Altiero. “You’ve got to add them at the very end, so they get that really crispy, almost popping kind of sweetness. They’re very sweet. You can’t overpower them. You can also use all those shells after you’ve peeled them to make a quick shrimp stock, that is great for any stew or soup. Nothing goes to waste. They’re fun to cook with.”

Cafe Miranda Favorite Maine Shrimp

  • 1 pound shrimp, head off, shell on
  • 1/2 red, green, banana or poblano pepper, cut into strips
  • 1/2 cup sliced red onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Garlic and lemon aioli

Heat a wok without the oil on high heat until it is smoking hot. Quickly add the oil and then the shrimp. Do not stir as you want to brown the shells. It ought to smell great, but watch for flare-ups as the moisture comes out of the shrimp. Place the vegetables around the edges so they will start to cook as well. When they begin to brown, toss them. When the vegetables and shrimp looks cooked (onions browned or at least translucent) toss in the vinegar to glaze the shrimp. Turn out the mixture to a warm platter. Serve as a peel and eat warm, or at room temperature, with a garlic and lemon aioli — mayonnaise, with garlic and lemon added to taste.

Recipe courtesy of Kerry Altiero of Cafe Miranda

Shrimp Poached in “Crazy Water” (Gamberetti all’Acqua Pazza)

  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 2-3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 pound (2 cups) halved cherry tomatoes, cubed plum tomatoes or whole grape tomatoes
  • 1 fresh hot red pepper or chili pepper flakes to taste
  • 1 cup lightly salted water
  • 1 1/2 pounds peeled, deveined Maine shrimp
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Italian parsley
  • Thick slices crusty bread, toasted and rubbed with garlic

Heat garlic and olive oil in large skillet and cook over low heat until soft. Add tomatoes, hot pepper and 1 cup water and bring to simmer. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until tomatoes have softened. Put shrimp in skillet, sprinkle with pepper and cover. Cook on low for few minutes until shrimp is opaque.

Remove shrimp to a deep platter using a slotted spoon and top with the pan juices, sprinkle with parsley and drizzle with the remaining olive oil. Serve with toasted bread.

Or place bread in flat soup plates and divide shrimp evenly between bowls.

Recipe courtesy Port Clyde Fresh Catch and Carrie Yardley

Maine Shrimp Curry

Serves 4

  • 2 pounds peeled, deveined Maine shrimp
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1 cup sliced carrots
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil (olive, peanut or sesame)
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh-grated ginger or 1 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 2 tablespoons curry paste (mild or hot, depending on taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 can coconut milk (regular or light)
  • Lime wedges and fresh basil for garnish

Heat oil in large skillet on medium-high heat. Quickly add garlic, ginger, curry paste and lime to oil and stir quickly to combine into bubbling paste. Add green beans, carrots and onions and saute. When onions begin to soften, reduce heat and add coconut milk. Simmer for 7-10 minutes, stirring every few minutes to evenly cook vegetables and keep film from forming on coconut milk. When carrots and beans are tender, add shrimp and cook for no more than three minutes, so shrimp are cooked but still soft.

Serve over basmati or jasmine rice, with lime wedges and fresh basil for garnish.

Maine Shrimp Ceviche

Serves 6-8

  • 2 pounds peeled, deveined Maine shrimp
  • 6 limes, juiced
  • 4 lemons, juiced
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1 small cucumber, diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 chile, such as jalapeno or serrano, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato sauce or ketchup
  • Chopped cilantro, to taste
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Avocado and tortilla chips

Lay out shrimp in a large glass dish. Pour lime and lemon juice evenly over shrimp, then refrigerate for 3 hours. The citric acid in the juice breaks down the protein in the shrimp, causing it to “cook.” Remove from fridge after three hours, toss shrimp and juice with remaining ingredients, and refrigerate for another hour. Serve with chopped avocado and tortilla chips.

Emily Burnham

Emily Burnham is a Maine native and proud Bangorian, covering business, the arts, restaurants and the culture and history of the Bangor region.