Farmers' Market Favorite
Shrimp & Pea Shoot Dijon

Market Chef Maggie Perkins, prepared for Texas Farmers' Markets.

I arrived at the market this Saturday morning with enthusiasm and pregnant expectation. There were families and friends, children and pets, some live musicians serenading a bustling crowd, and a clown in makeup (and maybe a few clowns out of makeup?). A small crowd was on queue for innovative eats from The Peached Tortilla food trailer, and lines were several shoppers deep for waffles from Knotty Nice Bakery, hot or iced coffee from Casa Brasil, who did me a huge solid by fronting me that big cup of iced coffee I was both craving, and (almost) ready to cry in gratitude over (Not. A. Morning. Person.).

I said hello to all of my friends. That's how this crowd of shoppers and vendors is. Maybe I see them only a few times a month, but it doesn't feel that way. They feel like a family, kinda. Warm hugs, handshakes, broad waves and 'Hi, there's!' across two lanes of foot traffic. "Hey Chef Maggie, Whatcha cookin' today?" Who wouldn't love sharing recipes with these kinds of people?

Most visits, I work with what I find to be the peak of the season-- culling vegetables, meats, seafood, cheeses, eggs, and more, from vendor stalls. Shopping on the market's dime, and often just being offered the best they have to work with, gratis. The market is a generous family, too.

Over the year I've worked with these markets, I've made some shopper friends, too. I even share meals with a supper club that formed from friends I've met there. New market buddies seek out the market tent and chat, and nibble, all things food (and maybe music, maybe farming, maybe sports.....I'm kinda chatty like that.). They are delightful! Just the nicest crowd you'd ever want to share a bite with. It's less a cooking demonstration as it is a big hungry circle of friends. I even get help from the youngest market-goers. That's a big treat for this former teacher. This bright little lady, pictured, was accompanied by her mother, who introduced her to new flavors from the market, along with her balloon giraffe, both lively. Just a delight. Occasionally a food-loving husband or wife is dropped off by their spouse for a little chef-sitting, and I'm happy to oblige-- they inspire my preparation. It's always so neat to gather around a common passion--fresh, wholesome food.

The Chef Demo tent is now situated adjacent to my friends from Prickly Pair Farm-- they peddle the prettiest bouquets of cut flowers grown in Lampasas, Texas. They've been away from the markets for a few months as plantings took hold, and now flourish. Got and gave a great 'gosh I've missed you' hug. The beautiful flowers they bring are the prettiest scenery for which a cook could ask. Market staff are always helpful and encouraging-- they run for supplies, and taste samples with complements. Always. Those few hours pass quickly. I leave looking forward to my next visit, and the adventure of developing the next, peak of the season recipe on the fly. It's fun. I'm lucky. And grateful.

Can't wait to see my market friends and family again, soon. If the good Lord's willing and the creek don't rise, I'll be at the Cedar Park Farmers' Market, next, on March 21, 2015 from 10-12noon, and at the Mueller Farmers' Market the following day, March 22, from 11-1pm. I you're in the area, please stop by for a bite!

This weeks recipe-- simple,simple, simple. Because when you have the best ingredients at hand, anything more would be just gilding the lily. Fresh gulf shrimp came from K&S Seafood, organically-grown pea shoots from Johnson's Backyard Garden, and stock (I used the available rabbit stock for the market recipe) and Champagne Dijon Mustard were sourced from Countryside Farm.

Shrimp & Pea Shoot Dijon
Serves 2

  • 1 pound medium to large shrimp, shells on
  • 6-8 cups fresh green pea shoots
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 2 T Dijon mustard 
  • 1 tsp thyme, dried
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil (to cover pan lightly)
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

  1. Peel shrimp, reserving shells. Set aside.  Wash pea shoots and pat dry well, trimming browned leaves and largest stems, then rough chopping through remaining stems into *bite-sized lengths.  Set aside. 
  2. In a deep saucepot, combine stock with reserved shrimp shells. Bring to a boil, reduce to medium, and hold at a very slight rolling boil until stock is reduced by half. **Remove shells. Cover and reserve.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until it ‘shimmers’. Add shrimp in one layer, cook turning once, until shrimp are pink and opaque (about 1 minute per side). Remove to cool. Reduce heat. Add pea shoots, stirring frequently until wilted. While wilting greens, roughly chop shrimp. Return to pan with wilted shoots. 
  4. Return stock to a low boil. Whisk in mustard and thyme until well blended. Correct seasonings.
  5. Transfer seasoned reduced stock to skillet with shoots and shrimp. Toss well to coat, warming through. 
  6. Adjust seasonings. Serve.

Serving suggestion:  Mound all atop a bed of well-seasoned cheesy grits or soft buttered polenta.

*Pea shoot stems can be fairly long, and unwieldy to eat if kept in one length.
** Optional, but worth the effort: Savour every bit of shrimpy-flavored goodness from the shells by bundling them in cheesecloth and wringing, pressing, squeezing, hammering (okay, don’t hammer. I got carried away, there) and ‘juicing’ the bundle over the stock before discarding shells. Usually I’d stick the shells in a bag in the freezer, collecting for seafood stock, but these shells, once wrung this way, have worn out their culinary welcome.  They’re dead, Fred.

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