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February 6, 2013

Caramelized cabbage a tasty canvas for native shrimp

Pandalus borealis. Northern shrimp. Maine shrimp. Native shrimp.

The teeny crustacean with gigantic sweetness from cold New England waters, one of the last few authentic New England foods that truly declare a season, arrives in fish markets and recipes by all these names.

We need these shrimp. We need their season; fishing started Jan. 23. It comes in the middle of winter when the calendar is blank — everyone has gone skiing — and dinner inspiration is on a low simmer. This truly local food comes along to sweeten life.

Unlike years past, in an effort to keep the Maine shrimp fishery healthy, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has set a catch quota of 1.38 million pounds, a quarter of last year’s 5.3 million pounds. Buy them when you see them; they no longer swell in piles in our fish markets.

This recipe comes from another New England native, Gloucester resident Laurel Tarantino. Laurel cautioned me that the colors aren’t beautiful, but the dish is amazing. She’s right about the amazing part; the cabbage and onions caramelize, providing a luscious, sweet backdrop for the sweeter shrimp. The unique shrimp flavor infuses cabbage and linguini delicately but conclusively; a little minced garlic just reminds there’s a little Italian with this very local catch.

This just may be the best Maine Shrimp preparation I’ve tasted, and I think it’s beautiful, too.

Native Shrimp with Cabbage

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 small green cabbage, shredded

1 Spanish onion, sliced

4 or 5 cloves of garlic, minced

4 tablespoon butter

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

salt and pepper

1 pound native shrimp, deheaded and shelled

1 pound linguini

drizzle of olive oil

Instructions

Heat a large pot of salted water to boil for the linguini.

Heat a large skillet to medium. Melt butter to bubbling. Add onion and cabbage, and lower heat to medium-low. Cook for about 15 minutes or until caramelized. Add red pepper flakes and taste for salt and pepper.

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