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~ My Succulent Shrimp Scampi w/Lemony Linguini ~

6a0120a8551282970b0148c8076334970c-800wiScampi is the Venetian word for small, rare (meaning: "hard-to-find", not, "cooked-rare"), clawed lobsters.  Scampi is also the Venetian word for Dublin Bay Prawns, which are found in the Irish Sea, which resemble baby lobsters, with the singular word for them being scampo.  In France, these small, spiny lobsters are referred to as langoustines or langostino lobsters, which are the terms I personally am most familiar with.  All of the above being said, "real" or "true" scampi are Norway's lobsters, which are found in the Adriatic, western Mediterranean and the Irish Sea. 

In the United States, scampi no longer refers to a particular crustacean, but is rather the generic Italian-American term for the preparation of large shrimp that have been baked, broiled or sautéed in a simple mixture of olive oil, butter, lemon, parsley and garlic.  Some versions include white wine, freshly ground pepper, and, occasionally minced shallot or onion.  Scampi can be served on small plates, drizzled with the flavorful pan juices and crusty Italian bread slices (for soaking up the juices), or, tossed with pasta, which also absorbs those same flavorful juices.  

FYI:  classically, scampi is neither topped or tossed with Parmesan cheese (or any other ), so if you are looking for a bastardization of the recipe, or intend to bastardize mine, just walk, run, hitch-hike or drive to your nearest Red Lobster and don't bother to read the rest of my post.

6a0120a8551282970b0148c8076334970c-800wiMy first attempt at making scampi was a very-easy broiled version that appeared in The Doubleday Cookbook, which was given to me as an eary Christmas gift by my friend Sally in 1976.  I remember this because my son Jess was born on December 17th of that year and Sal wanted to make sure she gave me a Christmas present along with a baby gift, in the event I was "out of action" over the upcoming holiday (who could forget thoughtfulness like that).  The good news for you is: there aren't any hard-to-make versions of scampi. 

6a0120a8551282970b0148c8076334970c-800wiThen, in 1982, two years after Joe and I were married, I ate a marvelous rendition of scampi at Joe's cousin's wedding reception in the Poconos.  It was after eating theirs, which was literally bursting with fresh garlic and lemon flavors, not to mention a hint of red pepper, that I set out to conquer the scampi world, or: duplicate that/their recipe.  I know, it seems odd that I would remember all of these "scampi" details, but there is indeed a very good reason:

This was the first family wedding that Joe and I had been invited to after our own marriage and I was looking forward to being introduced to all of his extended family.  For me it was a big deal and I wanted to make a good impression.  The wedding ceremony itself was lovely, but there was an "odd tension in the air".  Immediately after the nuptials, there was a clammoring,  along with a  distinct desire, on the part of all males, to quickly get to the reception.  As it turned out, the happy couple, in their misguided premarital bliss, had arranged to take their vows on that Saturday during the Penn State-Alabama football gameMy own husband Joe was driving like a bat-out-of-hell's church, while at the same time, we were being passed by other cars (including Joe's brother Tom and wife Kathy), which all ended up screeching somewhat haphazardly into the same restaurant parking lot at about the same time.  Upon entering the building, instead of heading calmly to the left and into the large dining room, everyone hurridly headed to the right and into the cocktail lounge, where the game was on one tiny television, and:  there was no wedding reception that day until after the last play of that game.  Penn State lost, but did win The National Championship that year, and, I ate some very memorable shrimp scampi.

Scampi #7 (Ingredients)For the scampi:

4  tablespoons salted butter

4  tablespoons olive oil

1 1/2 pounds, peeled & deveined, jumbo shrimp (21-25 count), tails left on (2  pounds of total shrimp prior to prepping)

3  tablespoons finely diced garlic, about 6 large cloves

4-6  tablespoons finely diced shallots or sweet onion

1/2  cup finely chopped fresh parsley, no stems included

juice from 1 large, fresh lemon (1/2 will be used below) 

3/4  cup white wine

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

4  additional tablespoons salted butter, kept cold

freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, to taste

For the lemony linguini:

1  pound linguini

4  ounces butter, at room temperature, the softer the better (1 stick)

juice from 1/2  of 1 large lemon (from above)

1/2  teaspoon red pepper flakes

For the garnish: 

zest from 1 large lemon (from above)

red pepper flakes

1  additional lemon, cut into 6 wedges

a very light drizzling of olive oil (optional)

Step 1.  Once the pasta is cooked (see Step 2), this recipe progresses very quickly, so, it is important to have all of your ingredients ready and waiting before you start cooking.  Prep the shrimp, garlic, shallots and parsley as directed and separately set each one aside.  Using a microplane grater, zest the lemon and set it aside.  Slice the lemon in half and using a fine mesh strainer, juice both halves through the strainer into a small bowl.  Set the juice aside, keeping in mind that you are only going to use half of it at a time.

Scampi #8 (Pasta in Pot)~ Step 2.  In an 8-quart stockpot bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil over high heat.  Add 1 tablespoon sea salt and the linguini, and cook until al dente, 9-10 minutes.  Quickly but thoroughly, drain the pasta into a colander, then immediately return the hot pasta to the still hot stockpot.  Add the 1 stick of butter, strained juice from 1/2 a lemon and 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more for more heat).

Place the lid on the stockpot.  Using  a pair of pot holders and your thumbs, hold the lid securely on the pot while vigorously shaking the pot up and down, about 10-12 seconds.  Lift the lid.  The pasta should evenly coated in a melted butter, lemon and red pepper mixture.  If it is not, repeat the process again.  Cover the pot and set aside while preparing the scampi.  This will keep the pasta warm and give it time to absorb the lemony butter sauce.

Scampi #9 (Sauteing the Garlic & Shallots)Step 3.  In a 12" nonstick skillet, over low heat, melt 4 tablespoons of butter into 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the prepped garlic and shallots and 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.  Increase heat to medium-high and using a large, nonstick slotted spoon,  saute, stirring constantly  until the shallots are transluscent, about 3 minutes.  Do not allow the mixture to brown.

Scampi #10 (Shrimp Partially Cooked)~ Step 4.  Add all of the prepped shrimp.  Liberally season them with freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend.

Continue to saute, stirring constantly until shrimp are firming up, turning a pretty pink color and are just slightly undercooked, about 2 1/2-3 minutes.  Turn the heat off. Do not overcook the shrimp.

~ Step 5.  Using the slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to a warmed bowl or platter, leaving the pan juices along with bits of garlic and shallots in the pan.  Loosely cover the dish of shrimp with aluminum foil to keep shrimp warm.

Scampi #11 (Butter Melting into Reduced Wine) ~ Step 6.  Add the juice from the second half of the lemon and the white wine.  Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.  Adjust heat to simmer rapidly and continue to cook for 45-60 seconds.  Turn the heat off.  Add the 4 tablespoons of cold butter and allow it all the time it needs to melt itself into the wine mixture.  Relax, this will only take about 1 minute.

Scampi #12 (Shrimp Back in Pan with Parsley) ~ Step 7.  Add the still warm shrimp and all of the parsley to the pan.  Toss until shrimp and parsley are evenly coated in the wine sauce.  Add the cooked linguini to the skillet and toss again until all of the ingredients are evenly coated and thoroughly combined.  Taste and season with some additional freshly ground sea salt and peppercorn blend, to your taste.

Note:  At this point, I like to put a lid on the skillet and let the mixture rest for about 5-6 minutes, stirring/tossing occasionally.  This gives the pasta time to absorb the wine sauce, this is how my family likes it and this is how I like to serve it.  If you happen to like your scampi a little "soupy/saucy", so you can dip bread into the sauce, skip the lid and the rest period and serve it immediately. 

~ Step 8.  Transfer the mixture into a large, warmed serving bowl or platter and garnish with an even sprinkling of the lemon zest and additional red pepper flakes over the top.  Portion into 6 warmed serving bowls and serve each with one lemon wedge, to squeeze and squirt over the top, along with an optional drizzle of olive oil:

Scampi #2 (On Fork Closeup)My Succulent Shrimp Scampi w/Lemony Linguini:  Recipe yields 6 servings.

Special Equipment List:  cutting board; chef's knife; microplane grater; fine mesh strainer; 8-quart stockpot w/lid; colander; pot holders; 12" skillet w/lid, preferably nonstick; large slotted spoon, preferably nonstick; aluminum foil

Cook's Note:  Be it Fall, Spring, Winter or Summer, scampi is a lovely, weeknight, family-style dinner.  This being said, in the late Summer/early Fall, when tomatoes are at their peak, for a very special treat, prepare this dish using fresh basil (in place of parsley) and toss in 1-2 cups of freshly-diced, vine-ripened tomatoes at the end.

"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti

(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2011)    


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