“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.” ~ Jacques Cousteau
(Note: This is from a newspaper column I write for the Port St. Joe Star. The recipe, and I hope the memories, will make it enjoyable for you, wherever you live.)
Driving along Highway 98 over the years from the beach into Port St. Joe (or “town,” as we beach kids called it), I saw a vast number of commercial fishing boats out on the lovely blue water. I won’t pretend to know the differences among all the boats I saw, but I do know that I was in awe of their stoic, peaceful presence in the midst of what sometimes felt like a chaotic world.
Our school bus was brought to a halt numerous times over the years, forced to wait for those boats to pass under the old drawbridge which led from Highland View into Port St. Joe. As the drawbridge would slowly ascend into the hot blue sky, we’d sit on the green vinyl bus seats, sweating and impatient, wondering ignorantly why the bridgetender couldn’t make the process faster. Then the boat would serenely pass through, and the bridge would slowly descend again, so we could be back on our way to school.
I loved watching those boats. I loved imagining who might be on the boat, what he or she was like, and what kinds of treasures they may pull from the water that day. I was a bit jealous that I had to go to school to do algebra when the fishermen were able to go out to deep waters, far away, in my young mind, from the troubles of life, just concerning themselves with catching lots and lots of delicious fish and, my favorite, shrimp.
Only once did I have the opportunity to go out on one of those vessels. I was in high school, and Mr. Guy and Mrs. Lila Gibson hosted a party for graduating seniors and our friends on one of the commercial fishing boats they owned. The Gibsons were very involved in the student ministry at Beach Baptist Chapel, and we did many fun things with them, including this invitation to be out on open waters in one of the boats I’d wondered about and admired from afar for so long.
There was food on every clean surface of the boat, and coolers full of Cokes and bottled water. There were quiet fishermen, probably wishing they didn’t have to fool with this load of students getting in their way, but they said nothing unkind. As we watched them work, I was captivated by the process of the nets being lowered, and later, as they pulled them back up, I watched the salty water pour from them back into the gulf, and felt the sea spray on my face. I loved it.
As the nets were dumped onto the boat’s floor, I remember seeing various creatures, including a small shark, which they threw back into the gulf, along with other captives they weren’t interested in keeping. I watched the men work the nets, pulling from them whet they had come for, believing as I watched that they really had the best job in the world.
I am very sure that Mr. Guy and Mrs. Lila cooked some of that catch for us to eat at some point that day, but I don’t remember anymore. I don’t remember if there were discussions at that time of the ecological impact of commercial fishing. I honestly don’t recall. What I do remember is the process of the nets, the feel and smell of the sea spray, the peace and serenity of a day out on the gulf. Those who are still fortunate enough to do that work must truly feel they do have the best job in the world.
Speaking of shrimp, I recently enjoyed a pasta dish made by the chef from Copelands New Orleans’ Longview, Texas location, and the shrimp were perfect; tender, flavorful, and sweet. The chef said he gets them fresh from the coast of Louisiana each week, and I told him the effort was worth it. There is nothing like fresh Gulf shrimp, in my opinion, even if it is from Louisiana and not my beloved northwest Florida.
I have adapted his recipe to make my own version, which I hope you’ll enjoy, as well.
Shrimp Magnolia Fettuccine
10-12 large shrimp (tail on)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces fresh sliced mushrooms
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
ounces grape tomato halves
1/2 cup white wine (or use broth)
2 ounces heavy cream
2 ounces butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ounce fresh basil leaves, torn
2 or 3 green onions, sliced
1 teaspoon favorite seasoning blend (Tony Chacheres, etc.)
Salt and pepper, to taste
8 ounces fettuccine pasta, cooked and set aside; keep warm
1. Heat oil in skillet over medium heat.
2. Add shrimp and mushrooms and cook for one minute to sear shrimp and brown mushrooms.
3. Add tomatoes, garlic, red pepper flakes, and seasoning blend and saute for about 30 seconds until heated throughout.
4. Add white wine or broth and bring to a simmer, swirling to incorporate.
5. Remove from heat, add cream, butter, basil and green onions and stir with spatula gently to incorporate well and create sauce.
6. Place hot pasta in center of bowl.
7. Pour sauce and ingredients over pasta, tossing gently to coat strands with sauce.
Copyright 2016 Stephanie Hill-Frazier. All rights reserved.