Spaghettini con camarones y tomates

January 3, 2013 § Leave a comment

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Happy New Year friends. 2013 has arrived in Five Islands with frigid temperatures. When I checked on-line this morning, after the dog walk, the Portland Press Herald said it was 1°. But thankfully it was sunny out so it really only felt like 5°. Dios mio!

I’m not sure I’m cut out for this kind of weather. To me, it’s not the bitter temperatures; it’s the icy roads. I predict at least a few falls for me this year. Also, the sand on the roads inevitably gets caught in the pads of our dogs’ paws (which leads to a very sad 3-legged dance in the middle of the road, sometimes more than one dog at a time), and the snow cover on the ground which most folks say will last for the next 2-3 months. Excuse me? My experiences in southeastern Virginia and Silver Spring did not prepare me for this. Given it’s only January 3rd, I think it’s going to be a long winter for the dogs and me (and for that matter, Amy too). (Editor’s note: Robert does not speak for me. I am shopping for snow shoes and planning to embrace the winter wonderland that is our new home.)

Oh well, pour me another cocktail.

Anyway, while it’s cold outside I like to enjoy the warmth emanating from my kitchen. We’ve almost completed the Week of Seven Fishes. Since I had yet to prepare a proper pasta dish as part of the Feast, I knew one was due. And this pasta is really simple and can be prepared quite easily on just about any night of the week.

The ingredients are basic: dry pasta, tomato sauce, cream or milk, a little parsley, and shrimp. I know I am a broken record, but concerning the shrimp, please buy domestic. The imported are problematic on multiple levels, workers’ rights and the environment at the top of the list. You can get good US shrimp in the frozen section, no problem. It’s a little too early for Maine shrimp, so I had to settle for Gulf shrimp. But they’re pretty tasty too.

While I think this dish is better with a homemade sauce, it could also be done with a good store-bought sauce. And don’t think you can’t buy a store-bought sauce and improve on it at home. Maybe add some herbs, a little garlic powder, and in this case, we want it to be creamy, so add in some cream, half & half, or even milk (not skim milk though). We also want to give it a taste of the sea. That is where the all-important shrimp stock plays a role.

Warm your sauce, cook your pasta a little al dente, combine your ingredients, and you’re ready to go. And if you’re anything like me, a bib comes in handy. Although many of my shirts already have a nice splattered tomato sauce design on them.

Spaghettini with Shrimp and Creamy Tomato Sauce
Inspired by: Capellini with Shrimp and Creamy Tomato Sauce, Gourmet Magazine
Serves 2

About 2 cups of prepared tomato sauce (if you make homemade, start with a good can of San Marzano tomatoes. They are worth it. That is unless you have fresh tomatoes!)
½ cup cream, half & half, or milk
½ pound of shell on medium-size shrimp
About 1 cup of shrimp stock (instructions below)
1-2 T olive oil
1 garlic clove, chopped
Parsley, some chopped and some left whole
Cayenne (optional)
Peppers corns (optional)
8 oz. of spaghettini or other pasta you enjoy
Salt and pepper, to taste

Thaw shrimp if necessary and then shell them. Take shells and add them to a medium pot. Cover them with water. Add a smashed garlic clove, pinch of salt, and a few stems of parsley. If you have some whole pepper corns in the cabinet, toss in a few. For a little spice, put in a pinch of cayenne. Bring to boil over medium heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Strain the liquid (preferably using a cheese cloth) into a measuring cup. Reserve.

While stock is simmering, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Rinse the pot used for the stock and add pasta sauce. Place over medium heat and stir in about 2/3 cup of shrimp stock. Simmer for at least 15 minutes to work in the flavors of the stock. Add dairy and incorporate into the sauce and keep on a simmer until it’s needed.

Add olive oil to a sauce pan over medium-low heat. Once hot, add shrimp and a little salt and pepper and sauté for about 2-3 minutes per side. Look for a nice color and firmness. Poke the shrimp and if they feel firm, take them out of the pan. Reserve.  Shrimp can be cut in half long ways to make them a bit easier to eat in the pasta.  Shrimp can be kept warm in a 200° oven.

Once there’s a rolling boil on the water, toss in the pasta. I would recommend undercooking the pasta slightly since it will continue to cook when sauce is added. Drain the pasta and quickly add it back into the pot. Don’t let all the water drain out of it. You want it to be wet. Put the pot back on medium-low heat and add in the sauce. Go easy. Don’t submerge the pasta. The goal is an even mix so both the pasta and the sauce can shine.

Take a pair of tongs and plate the pasta in serving bowls. Top with shrimp, parsley, and a drizzle of olive oil.

Eat.

Winter in Five Islands

December 5, 2010 § 1 Comment

View of 35 Lewis Road from our neighbors', the Tharps, house

Katy and I had a great, although way too short, trip to Five Islands. The house was in good shape, with only slight evidence that a mouse had been nosing around in our stuff. We met with Bob on Friday morning and firmed up the plans for the construction, which starts Monday. More on that in the next post.

Five Islands is quiet in December, but not completely dormant, much to my surprise. The few full-time residents in the village have their Christmas lights up and it’s very cheery. During the day, the local lobstermen’s trucks fill the parking lot at the pound, evidence that the hard work of bringing in the catch continues, just further out at sea apparently. On Friday morning, Katy and I saw only two lobstermen out on Five Islands’ little harbor. The main catch is out in the deep ocean this time of year. Heidi, who runs the little gourmet farm stand, was open on Saturday, selling wreaths and other lovely stuff. I think next weekend will be her last until spring. Carroll was at work in his boatyard and there were some construction projects going on around the village. Practically bustling.

View of the Sheepscot River from the Tharps' dock

If there was ever any doubt that Five Islands would be just as beautiful in winter as in summer, let me assure you that it is every bit as stunning (see above). When we woke up on Saturday morning it was snowing. A perfect Maine winter morning (thankfully, the snow didn’t stick since we had to get back to Manchester for our 4:30 flight). Our neighbors, the Tharps (who we have yet to meet), live on the water side of Lewis Road. Since they have decamped for Florida for the winter, we strolled down to the water’s edge to soak up the view. Here’s Katy on their dock (thanks Tharps).

Katy bundled up

We had time for a stroll around Old Schoolhouse Road before cleaning up and heading out. First we stopped at the pound, all shut up tight for the winter.

Five Islands Lobster Co. "Closed"

The view from the dock doesn’t change much. Same old lobster boats.

A lobster boat moored in Five Islands harbor

Same little islands.

Island off coast of Five Islands

Same rocky coast line.

View toward Ledgemere Beach

Same lighthouse.

Lighthouse in Southport

We passed by what used to be a little store selling antiques (I think. We never actually went in before they shut down). I’m thinking this could be an ideal location for Robert’s restaurant. It’s right across from the cemetery and a little down from the Georgetown Community Center, very central.

Old house at the corner of 127 and Old Schoolhouse Road

We met a local dog out in front of the boat yard that’s run by our old friend Carroll (no, he still doesn’t recognize me even though I’ve introduced myself several times and he once witnessed my and Robert’s humiliation as a lobsterman had to tow us back to shore after our maiden Maine voyage on our sailboat, a long story for another day). Anyway, this dog had a jaunty orange bandanna and was keen to accompany us on our walk.

A dog named Grey

A guy working on one of our neighbors’ houses knew the dog, Grey, and assured us that he has a home. We soon realized that all the local hounds were sporting the same bandanna, the better to avoid getting shot by a hunter apparently. Aaaa, the joys, and perils, of country living.

Oh, and we spotted our mailbox. How did we buy a house and not know we have a mailbox and where it’s located? Search me. There it is in the middle of the line up, #35.

Lewis Road mailboxes

On the way up 127, we stopped to snap a picture of the boathouse along the side of the road at the Back River.

Boathouse on 127 in Georgetown

I’ll write a separate post about the work we started on the house. It involved a sledge hammer and flying debris, very exciting.

There were a few dining highlights to mention. We flew into Manchester, NH, on Thursday and drove the 2 hours up to Five Islands. On the way, we stopped in Wells, ME, for a spot of lunch at Billy’s Chowder House. We both agree: 2 thumbs up. I had the Half & Half Platter, that’s half fried clams and half fried oysters along with fries and cole slaw (light!). I started with the house specialty, the clam chowder, of course. It was all delicious. And the view out over the marshes of Wells is fabulous.

On Friday evening, we went up to Bath for dinner at Solo Bistro. This is becoming one of my favorite restaurants in the area. I had the miso marinated black cod and Katy had the lobster risotto. Again, 2 thumbs way up. Especially good was the pumpkin tart with a homemade marshmallow brule. On the way back to Manchester on Saturday, we had time to squeeze in one more tasty meal at Duck Fat in Portland. This place works magic with the panini machine and the french fryer. I had the bacon, tomato, and goat cheese panini and Katy had the turkey, cheese, and cranberry jelly panini. One more time, 2 thumbs up!

Stay tuned for more details on the transformation of 35 Lewis Road. And keep those name suggestions coming!

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