Shrimp Scampi

Hola amigos! As you read in my last entry here, I have just come back from a wonderful trip to St. Armand’s Key. Island living really connected me to the heritage of the country where I grew up, with a lot of ingredients I don’t often see in Midwestern menus and the warm summer evenings filled with salsa, merengue and bossa nova music. The swaying palm trees are reminiscent of home! The bougainvillea gracefully growing over the porticos of local houses reminds me of my own childhood home. So I have decided I will continue exploring recipes connected to my heritage this summer.

Island life also allowed me to eat tons of fish and seafood. I was reminded of how much I enjoy Spanish and French cuisines and a nautical lifestyle, all of which are part of my heritage. The sea is in my blood thanks to my Danish great-grandfather who sailed around the world three times when he was young. I have tried so many delicious dishes during my stay here: paella marinera, the famous saffron rice and seafood dish originally from Spain; lobster croquettes; fried empanadas de picadillo; grilled grouper with lump blue crab meat and fried plantains; briny oysters fresh from the sea, served with a champagne sauce; flan made the traditional Spanish way and served with mint leaves; classic Key Lime pie; and lots and lots of Italian-style gelato made right here on the island by the local shop.

There is, however, one dish I refuse to try no matter what restaurant I visit: shrimp scampi. Shrimp scampi is an Italian dish adapted to the ingredients available in the United States. Scampi is the Italian word for Norwegian lobsters, tiny crustaceans with pale pink shells more closely related to lobster than to shrimp. In Italy and a few other places they are called langoustines—Langostinos in Argentina. In the United States, cooks substituted shrimp for scampi due to availability, and so the names shrimp and scampi are used interchangeably. The traditional way of preparing them in Italy is to sautée the langoustines in olive oil, garlic, onion, and white wine.

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My post for today features a deliciously simple shrimp scampi recipe, inspired by the wonderful time I’ve had on this island and the delicious seafood I’ve had during my time here. In the US, there are so many iterations of shrimp scampi out there, and it makes for a nice variety when you’re dining out. However, if you happen to have a well-loved favorite, the variety of dishes under a single name can lead to disappointment when ordering.

My favorite shrimp scampi recipe features olive oil, butter, garlic, parsley and white wine; I omitted the onions. Some people like fresh red pepper, but personally I don’t like that kind of kick in my scampi. Instead, I opted for the coolness of fresh parsley. Usually I like lemon with my fish or seafood, so I added a little bit, as well as garlic, which goes really well with parsley. Scampi is super easy to make and made in about 15 minutes, plus a little prep time. It can be served with any variety of pasta or breads. My most favorite is serving it with angel hair pasta. It is worth using raw shrimp for the recipe and shelling it by hand to get the full salty taste of the crustacean. When sautéing the shrimp, they have to be cooked long enough that they turn pink, but not so long that they turn gummy. For wine, I used a chardonnay. (I still have a lot to learn about wine!)

I hope you will consider trying this recipe. I am planning to make this recipe any time I’m feeling nostalgic for my time at St. Armand’s.  It will make your summer evening super festive and will bring you a fresh taste of the sea wherever you may be.

Shrimp Scampi

Prep time: 10 min.

Cook Time: 15 min.

Servings: 4 entrees

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons butter or ghee
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper (according to taste)
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 2 pounds shrimp,
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 7 oz pasta, cooked

Instructions:

  1. In a large skillet, melt butter or ghee, and add the olive oil and garlic; sauté until fragrant. This should only take one minute or so.
  2. Shell and clean the shrimps; save the shells.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large pot, bring 1 quart salted water to a boil for the pasta.
  4. Back to the scampi, simmer the shells in the wine for 5-7 minutes, strain the wine and then discard the shells.
  5. Pour the enriched wine in the skillet, adding salt and black pepper and bring to a simmer. Let the liquid reduce by about half its volume, about 2 minutes more.
  6. Toss the dry angel hair pasta into the boiling water and cook following packaging directions. The trick of this dish is that you will have cooked the pasta simultaneously with finishing the scampi, so you can serve them both while warm.
  7. Back to the scampi, add the shrimp to the wine sauce and cook until they turn pink. This may take 2 to 4 minutes depending on the size of the shrimp.
  8. Stir in parsley and lemon juice.
  9. Strain the fully-cooked pasta and serve on a platter.
  10. Pour the scampi over the angel hair. Serve warm!
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