Grilled Maine Shrimp
By Annemarie Ahearn
Styling + Photography by Stacey Cramp
In the early spring, one of the few prized ingredients in Maine hails from the icy Atlantic Ocean. Maine shrimp—small, sweet, and succulent—are plentiful, and plenty cheap too.
I head out to Port Clyde as the sun is setting over pools of salt water and snow-laced farmhouses. The only business open is the General Store, which, despite its modest inventory, is the heartbeat of a quiet port town.
I wait in my car for Glen Libby, the president of the Midcoast Fishermen’s Cooperative and chairman of the Midcoast Fishermen’s Association. In the harbor comes the light of a fishing boat heading in for the night. A fleet of pickup trucks barrels down the road, and silhouettes of men begin unloading crates of shrimp and transferring them into the beds of pickup trucks. I approach them—wearing a pair of vintage cowboy boots and carrying a small black journal—and ask for Libby. In a deep voice one identifies himself as Libby.
“Get on the boat and we’ll do the interview,” he says.
I leap onto the boat. In the cabin, I huddle in dark corner beside a Playboy centerfold and write. One of the crew members comes up behind me and turns a light on so I can see. Libby starts the boat up and we head out toward the mooring.
In his patched-up Grundens, Libby tells me about the co-op. Twelve fishermen contribute to the organization, providing shrimp, lobster, and groundfish. Some of the seafood goes directly to shareholders in Maine, and some goes as far as the New Amsterdam Market in Manhattan and Brooklyn Kitchen in Brooklyn. The co-op created 25 new part-time jobs in the community, and relies on people, rather than machines, to process shrimp. The fishermen have also been working with the Gulf of Maine Research Institute to reduce the amount of bycatch, all of which adds to the ongoing effort to restore the Gulf of Maine’s depleted fisheries.
“The fisherman of midcoast Maine want the brand to stand for something, and that is sustainability,” Libby says. It’s this sense of commitment on the part of both the fishermen and the community that has maintained an age-old industry in the state of Maine. In a similar effort, the Maine Department of Marine Resources initiated the Working Waterfront Access Pilot Program, which matches grant funds with the sale of developmental rights on the waterfront, to preserve the fishing real estate, so to speak.
The engine slows and then quits. I step out of the cabin, and we all jump onto a dinghy and head back to the docks. My boots are wet and smell of fish—a noble feeling.
Port Clyde Fresh Catch | 207.372.8065 | portclydefreshcatch.com
Grilled Maine Shrimp, Shell On
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
8 wooden skewers, soaked in water for an hour
24 Maine shrimp, shell-on, rinsed in a cold saltwater bath
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper
Turn the grill on to medium. In a medium sauté pan, add the olive oil and garlic, and let sit over very low heat for 20 minutes. Fit 2 or 3 shrimp to a skewer, stabbed straight through the bellies and out the backs. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper on both sides. Brush generously with the garlic oil. Place them on the grill, resting on their sides, for 3 minutes or until they begin to blacken. Flip and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the grill. Repeat process with the rest of the skewers. Squeeze lemon on top and serve with a bowl for the shells.
Cook’s note: Don’t eschew the eggs when present; they are delicious and a delicacy.