More than Great Lobster: Fresh Catch Maine Seafood

More than Great Lobster: Fresh Catch Maine Seafood

Mark Murrell

The Gulf of Maine is rich both in seafood and history. Since European explorers came to the coast of Maine back in the 1600’s (predating the Pilgrim’s settlement) the wealth of our fishing grounds quickly became legendary across the Atlantic - explorer John Cabot wrote that cod were so abundant they could be scooped out of the sea by basket. Our hometown of Portland was founded over 350 years by the British as a fishing center to capitalize on these stocks.

Today, it remains a vital port and source of some of the best seafood in the world.

Why is our Maine seafood so good? One of the reasons is the colder waters and the nutrients brought north by the power of the gulf stream. These cold, clean waters are ideal for shellfish and the smaller baitfish schools that draw in larger predators like swordfish, tuna, and halibut. Another reason is our local dayboat fleets. Because our fishery is relatively close to shore, the boats need not take weeks at sea with fish aging  in their holds. Their quick turnaround brings back the catch ocean fresh - sometimes even still alive when they reach the docks!

The handling of the catch is also critical for quality. Because the fish are landed so quickly, fishmongers can immediately fillet them and sell them the same day. We purchase our fish from a small local wholesaler located only a few blocks away on a Portland wharf  who hand-fillets our orders in the morning the day the order ships to our customers. This means unbeatable freshness when you receive it on the next day.  It’s no exaggeration when we say “Dock to Doorstep”.

In addition to offering the best lobsters in Maine, here are some of the fresh seafood selections now available - and check back for more seasonal specials:

Cod, Hake, and Haddock

All these species come from the same family of fish, with cod the being largest and haddock the smallest. All are coveted for their lean, mild yet sweet fillets that turn white when cooked, with a delicate texture and nice tender flakes. Cod is a traditional New England favorite, and is wonderful when baked with herbs. Hake can be used a substitute in all your favorite cod recipes. Haddock is a favorite here in Maine when fried and served up as a sandwich. All are outstanding for fish chowders and stews. Our fillets come skin off.

Halibut

Halibuts are coveted for their mild yet sweet flavor. Unlike their giant Pacific cousins, our local Gulf of Maine/Bay of Fundy fish range in size from 35 to 150 lbs, making their fillets all the more moist. Caught by hooks, they are brought in by dayboats and sent immediately to market as fresh catch, not frozen as is common with the Pacific fish. Halibut is extremely versatile in the kitchen - rich and meaty, it cooks white and can be baked, broiled, steamed or poached - and even stands up well on the grill! We source ours from nearby Nova Scotia and the seasonal spring Maine catches.

Swordfish

While swordfish are caught all over the world (and often frozen and sold thawed) it’s the seasonal North Atlantic catch that we think is the best. Throughout summer until late fall, swordfish migrate into our fishing grounds to feed on the abundant baitfish and squid. The swordfleets take to the banks and fish at night with hooked longlines. They return with some of the best tasting fish you will ever have. Firm and meaty, swordfish are flavorful and can be cooked up in a variety of different preparations. Serve it baked with lemon, marinate and put it on the grill, or even make kebabs with dipping sauces. Local catches subject to seasonal availability!

Scallops

There is nothing like a fresh sea scallop coming from cold waters. Their briny, creamy flavor makes it one of the seafood lover’s favorites. Scallops swim using an abductor muscle that clicks it’s two shells together and pushes it through the water - it is this meaty muscle that when shucked we know as the “scallop” on the plate. In the winter, scallops migrate inshore where they are harvested along our Maine coastline in the morning and brought to market the same day. All our scallops are “dry packed”, meaning no preservatives or extra water are added to them. This gives them the optimal sear in the pan. We love them seared, but are also excellent when baked. Our coastal  Maine catch is caught by dayboats seasonally. Deeper water New England scallops are available most of the year.

Mussels

Now a culinary favorite, the great demand for fresh mussels has set off a boom for mussel farming here in Maine, where they thrive in the nutrient-rich cold coastal waters. Raised off of ropes attached to rafts, our blue mussels thrive and grew to yield beautiful, sweet and salty meats. Unlike wild mussels harvested from the ocean floor, ours are clean and free of mud and grit. Serve them steamed up in water, wine or cream with a little garlic - or cook them up with your favorite pasta, seafood soup, or even paella. Ships live!

Crab

The Gulf of Maine is home to the rock crab, also know as the Jonah. Once considered a nuisance to lobstermen when they robbed their lobster pots of the bait, it was discovered that the crabs were delicious when steamed and picked. Their flaky, sweet meat with a little mayo makes for one of the best crabrolls you have ever tasted! Or lightly breaded and fried into crab cakes with a little dressing. Larger crabs have delicious clawmeat that are sold in the shell as “cocktail claws” which are a great way to start a meal with a little cocktail sauce for dipping.

While Maine is iconically associated with our great friend the lobster, we hope you balance your diet with some of the other seafood bounties that our fishing community brings in fresh every day.

Enjoy!