I recently discovered a new phrase that people have been using to describe an aspect of life in Far West Texas… “getting off the island.”
After just having celebrated two years of living full-time in Fort Davis, I understood the analogy completely, and was grateful to be able to finally put the feeling into words.
Living out here in the Trans-Pecos, we are living on islands made of sand and rock and cacti. It takes considerable travel over seas of rough terrain to go anywhere. I spent four years living on Galveston Island, and would sometimes forget about the mainland just across the big bridge… like we sometimes forget about getting off the island when we’re out here.
For Valentine’s Day, my husband and I island-hopped over to Marfa for dinner at LaVenture at the St. George Hotel. The Pre-Fixe menu had offerings that included seafood, as well as beautiful steak and chicken dishes. Knowing our local island-fare doesn’t usually include seafood, we opted for the East Coast oysters and the East Coast lobster with lobster ravioli.
Gulf Coast seafood is my personal favorite since that’s what I grew up on and eat at every opportunity, but life in the desert made me jump at the chance, even if it was from the cold, Atlantic waters. It was delicious, and made us hungry for more.
When I think about all the ways I love to eat shrimp, I start feeling like my name is Bubba Gump… “You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sauté it… shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich…”
Here are a few gratuitous shrimp photos… everything is homemade except for the Cajun Shrimp Enchiladas, which are from the Reel Seafood House in Bulverde, TX. The.BEST.
Rather than driving nine hours to the coast for a Gulf seafood trip, we left the island and drove to Odessa, where the new HEB store has a seafood counter. As luck would have it, jumbo Gulf shrimp was on sale for $6.99 per pound, less than half of the normal low price. They were beautiful, so we stocked our freezer with frozen shrimp. And grabbed a couple of lobster tails because they too were very inexpensive, and lovely. Throw in wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon on sale, and I was in heaven. You just can’t get seafood like that out here on our island.
My mouth waters at the thought of my favorite dish at Los Jalapenos in Alpine – the Shrimp Enchiladas are excellent and will satisfy my seafood hankering without venturing too far from the home-island.
Many folks don’t know that there used to be a seafood restaurant in Fort Davis. Tommy’s Seafood served fried shrimp, French fries and coleslaw, from what I’ve been told. A fried shrimp restaurant in Fort Davis sounds like a dream come true to me, and the funny thing is that it was housed in our very own property here.
The shrimp for the restaurant came from Imperial, Texas, just down the road, between Fort Davis and Odessa. Long story short, in the 1970s, some folks had the ingenious ideas of filling unused gravel pits with saline water that is found in the Permian Basin, since the area was part of the ocean and underwater, once upon a time.
Once they found out the water could be used, they stocked it with shrimp, and in some places, redfish. In the years that followed, shrimp farms popped up in West Texas and sold shrimp in restaurants and through retail, and to operations like Tommy’s Seafood in Fort Davis. From what I’ve read, the shrimp farmers stopped selling to the public in 2006, but the Imperial Shrimp Farm is being used as an organic marine fish and shrimp farm research facility for different universities. I hope they start selling to the public again.
Our recent trip off the island landed us in Odessa, and we returned to our desert island with seafood… I think that’s West Texas island living at its finest.
Cajun Creamy Shrimp Sauce with Pasta
(You can serve this over pasta, or atop baked salmon or cod as I like to serve it. For extra flavor, I like to add chopped bacon when I’m sauteing the veggies)
1-1/2 pounds unpeeled, medium-size fresh shrimp
2 teaspoons Creole seasoning
12 ounces uncooked penne pasta
2 tablespoons butter
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup (2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Peel shrimp, and devein. Toss shrimp with Creole seasoning; set aside.
Prepare pasta according to package directions; drain. Keep warm.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp, and cook, stirring constantly, 5 minutes or just until shrimp turn pink. Remove shrimp from skillet. Add onion, celery and garlic to skillet and sauté 2 to 3 minutes or until tender. Reduce heat to medium; stir in cream and hot sauce. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and simmer, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in shrimp and parsley. Toss with pasta. Sprinkle evenly with Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.