When I was two or so, I made my first trip to Maine to visit my aunt and uncle who live there. I don’t remember the trip, but home videos of the trip show me gleefully climbing over rocks on the beach and throwing pebbles into the ocean. One of my favorite stories from that family trip is recounted by my mom, who says that when I saw my first lobster I declared it to be a mosquito, and subsequently refused to eat them!
Sunday Supper rolled around again. Christian and I were out grocery shopping when he made his way over to the seafood counter. He clearly had remembered a conversation with Butter from last week regarding shrimp and roe. I’m not much of a fan— for one, I’m a freshwater gal and fishy things just taste fishy to me. Before you start in on a lecture about how fresh seafood doesn’t have a fishy smell— I get it. I know the difference, but if you grew up on freshwater fish that salty fishy “dirty beach at the ocean” smell is pretty apparent. Call it brine-y deliciousness if you want.
The second reason I’m not a fan of roe in particular is the texture. I don’t enjoy the way they snap open in your mouth. It reminds me of trying to blow up a balloon, the way the rubber feels pressing back against your teeth if you bite down. Maybe that makes me uncultured, but these things happen I suppose.
So there we were standing at the seafood counter, Christian with his trademark impish grin talking to the fish guy and me wondering what that grin was for. And then I spotted it— a pile of prawns nestled into the chipped ice, fat with eggs. Each prawn clutched a bundle of them tightly in their legs, all electric blue and exotic. I’ve never seen them before, not that I spend much time at the seafood counter in any grocery store. Last week Christian and Butter were talking about how good they were, and oh, what a delicacy! as I squirmed in my seat. The egg thing, remember? I wryly turned to Christian in the store and grumbled, I guess this is what I get for saying those sounded gross last week, huh? Yes, he grinned as he grabbed the neatly-wrapped brown paper package being handed across the counter.
I’m a pretty good sport, and he made a damned good dinner. Butter gave us the official seal of approval and the table was uncharacteristically quiet as we concentrated on peeling shrimp and pulling apart the little clutches of eggs, then dipping them in the sauce making a moat around our plates. She was happy to take the two I didn’t want, and I was happy to have tried it! Wax poetic all you want about bursting brine bubbles… but cheers to trying new things and trying them again. Especially with friends.
Shrimp and Grits with a little bit of porky love
1. Place the shrimp in a steamer basket for about 7 - 10 minutes or until cooked through. This will depend on size. Take care not to over cook or you'll have some rubber shrimp on your hands. When complete, remove from steamer and set aside.
2. While that's steaming, heat two cups of milk to a slight simmer. Slowly stir in the grits, continually stirring to incorporate the grits and milk.
3. Once all the milk is absorbed, add another cup of milk, 1/2 cup at a time, until all the milk is absorbed the the grits are creamy and no longer "crunchy"
4. While the grits are cooking, render down the pancetta (Bacon works also) until crispy. Remove from pan and rest on a paper towel to drain.
5. Before placing the grits in a bowl, add 1 1/2 tbsp of butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
6. Assemble the dish with the grits in first, the shrimp on top and the pancetta/bacon sprinkled through out.