It’s not every day that fresh Florida shrimp are available at my local fish market, that was reason enough for me to prepare a dish that showcases their pristine sweet flavor, shrimp scampi.
Most “fresh” shrimp sold in supermarkets are shipped frozen and thawed for the seafood counter. That means the shrimp you will find with the frozen seafood is exactly the same and maybe even a little cheaper than what is being presented as fresh, it just hasn’t been sitting on a bed of ice all day. Thawed shrimp are a convenience to use only when you need them immediately. The shelf life of thawed shrimp is only a day or so at best, while frozen shrimp retain their quality for several weeks in the freezer.
Most shrimp sold today are IQF or individually quick frozen, so it is easy to remove the amount of shrimp you need for a recipe. The best way to thaw shrimp is to put it in the fridge overnight or for a quicker thaw, put it in a colander of cold water and let some cold water trickle into the bowl while the excess goes down the drain. The shrimp should be ready to cook in about 15 minutes.
Shrimp are sold by the count, the number of shrimp to make a pound, so the lower the count, the bigger the shrimp. The names that correspond with the sizes range from extra colossal, under 10 per pound to extra small, 61 to 70 shrimp per pound. The descriptions are not standardized however so one vendor’s extra large could be another’s jumbo. So it is always best to stick with looking at the count when buying shrimp.
According to Italian cookbook author Lidia Bastianich, shrimp scampi is one of the those creations in which immigrant cooks adapted Italian techniques to American ingredients. Scampi is the Italian word for a prawn or langoustine, more closely related to lobsters. One traditional way of preparing them in Italy was to sauté them with garlic, onion, olive oil and white wine. When Italians immigrated to America they adapted the preparation, substituting the more readily available shrimp. The dish was called shrimp scampi and the name stuck, meaning shrimp prepared in the scampi style.
This recipe is from Melissa Pellegrino, cookbook author and contributing editor to Fine Cooking magazine,. What makes this interpretation of shrimp scampi unique is the addition of shrimp stock which further enhances the flavors in this dish.
Begin by peeling the shrimp, you can leave the tails on for presentation if you choose. The next step is to devein the shrimp, which isn’t a vein at all but the digestive tract. It is not absolutely necessary and you can eat shrimp with the vein still in, but one thing I know for certain, it will always get you Chopped. To devein, make a shallow slit down the middle of the back which exposes the intestine. Lift the vein out with the tip of a paring knife and wipe the blade with a clean paper towel. You can also do this under cold running water. There are also inexpensive tools that allow you to devein in one fell swoop.
The shrimp stock is made with the shrimp shells along with the usual ingredients used in stock making, onion, celery, carrot and a bay leaf. The ingredients are brought to a boil, simmered and strained. Only ¼ cup of the stock is needed so the rest can be frozen for future use.
Aromatic garlic, parsley and lemon peel are added to melted butter in the skillet. The shrimp are cooked in this mixture until they turn pink. Wine and shrimp stock are reduced to make a sauce with a final additon of pepper flakes, lemon peel and, of course, more butter. Served over pasta, rice or just accompanied with some crusty bread, shrimp scampi is a quick delicious entree easy enough for weeknights and elegant enough for special occasions.
- 1½ lb. 16-20 count shrimp (these may be called jumbo or extra jumbo) peeled and deveined (shells reserved) tails may be left on if you choose
- 1 medium carrot, chopped
- 1 medium rib celery, chopped
- 1 small yellow onion, halved
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 4T unsalted butter
- ¼c finely chopped Italian parsley
- 2T minced garlic
- 1T finely grated lemon zest
- ¼c dry white wine
- 1t fresh lemon juice
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- Lemon wedges for serving
- In a 4-quart saucepan , combine the reserved shrimp shells, carrot, celery, onion and bay leaf. Add four cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
- Strain the stock through a fine-mesh sieve and reserve ¼cup for the scampi. The rest of the shrimp stock can be frozen for future use.
- Pat the shrimp dry and season with ½teaspoon salt and a grind of pepper.
- In a 12-inch heavy skillet, melt 3Tof the butter over medium heat. Add the parsley, garlic and lemon zest and cook, stirring occasionally until the garlic is lightly golden, 1-2 minutes. Raise the heat to high, add the shrimp and cook until they start to turn pink, about 1 minute. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the lemon juice and crushed red pepper flakes and stir to coat.
- Transfer the shrimp to a serving plate using a slotted spoon. Whisk the remaining 1T butter into the sauce. If the sauce seems too thin, simmer for a minute or so to thicken. Season to taste with salt and pepper, pour over the shrimp and serve with lemon wedges on the side.