When Jay & I settled in the Pacific NW almost eight years ago, locals spoke of a memoir about fishing in the Northwest – Fishing with John by Edith Iglauer. In her middle age, Edith, who had lived a sophisticated, urban life in New York, met a commercial salmon fisherman in British Columbia, married him, and spent the next four years fishing with him on his 41′ troller, the Morekelp. As transplants from the Washington DC area, Jay & I identified with Edith’s wonder and the sense of adventure she found in the Pacific Northwest.
Last Friday we spent an afternoon on the water with our own fisherman friend, John. Our task was easy enough – bring lunch and cold drinks for the three of us and meet him at the dock at 11am. Prawn season in the San Juan Islands lasts only a hand full of days, so all the fisherman are eyeing the tide charts in anticipation. We motor toward Spieden Island, and John’s “secret spot”, hoping to avoid the crowd. As we arrive, we smile… there are fisherman everywhere – it seems the secret is out! Not to worry though, we are armed with John’s special bait recipe and I am confident that the four traps we lower into the depths (300 to 500 feet) will do the trick.
Once the traps are baited and lowered, we relax in the brilliant midday sun to enjoy our lunch. Immediately afterwards John begins work on the electric winch – this is the first use of the season. Turns out that a little improvising is needed to make it work but the guys succeed and soon the first trap is on it’s way up! We all think that it feels extra heavy, laden with a full catch. What a sight! As the trap clears the water we see over 40 gorgeous spot prawns pulsing with life in the cage. Their eyes glow fluorescent copper. Quickly they are released into the waiting bucket… a few escape onto the deck, adding to the excitement. Jay sorts them and the undersized prawns are released back to the water. We having a satisfying number of “grandpa” jumbo prawns. As we move from trap to trap, the catch gets better and better.
Our day ends happily with our quota of spotted prawns! With their succulent sweetness, they will be the stars of our Mother’s Day Fettuccine Alfredo!
Our recipe is inspired by Saveur’s Original Fettuccine Alfredo…
Fettuccine Alfredo with Fresh Prawns
1 1/2 lb. prawns or shrimp (cleaned,reserving shells to create stock)
1 cup white vermouth or white wine and 1 cup water for stock
1 lb. dried fettuccine (I am gluten-free and recommend Tinkyada Brown Rice Fettuccini)
1⁄4 lb. unsalted butter (1 stick)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1⁄2 lb. finely grated parmesan (about 3 1⁄4 cup)
chopped tarragon and Italian parsley for garnish
- Clean the prawns. To make the stock, place the shells in a pan with 1 cup water and 1 cup white vermouth or white wine and bring to a simmer. After 20 minutes, remove from heat, and strain liquid and return to heat. Bring to a boil, and poach prawns in the stock for about one minute, until done. Remove prawns with a slotted spoon. Only add as many prawns as will be covered by the boiling stock. It’s OK to cook the prawns in batches. Set the poached prawns aside in a bowl. Gently simmer the stock for a few minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Cook fettuccine, following directions on the package, until pasta is al dente. For the best results, Saveur says to use dried pasta, which doesn’t break as easily during tossing as fresh egg pasta does.
- While pasta is cooking, cut butter into thin pats and transfer to a large, warmed platter, along with the olive oil. Drain pasta and place the pasta over the butter and olive oil on the platter.
- Sprinkle grated parmesan and prawns over the pasta and drizzle with 1⁄4 cup of the prawn stock.
- Using a large spoon and fork, gently toss the pasta with the butter and cheese, lifting and swirling the noodles and adding more stock as necessary. (The pasta water will help create a smooth sauce.) Work in any melted butter and cheese that pools around the edges of the platter. Continue to mix the pasta until the cheese and butter have fully melted and the noodles are coated.
- Garnish with chopped tarragon and parsley, and a grind or two of black pepper to taste.
- Serve the fettuccine immediately on warmed plates.
SERVES 4 – 6