Monday, August 27, 2012

Shrimp Prepared Scampi Style: Results and Modified Recipe

The Process:
Though I was a bit overwhelmed by the excitement of having my college roommates in town, I was still able to memorize this recipe in three days. The good news with cooking as opposed to baking is that measurements can be a little bit off without committing a major culinary faux pas. Just pretend it's on purpose.

In the mix of all of the ingredients for this Scampi-style shrimp, not to mention the arugula salad (topped with grapefruit, fennel, toasted almonds, avocado, and balsamic), linguini, and dessert (chocolate-covered strawberries) that I made to accompany the shrimp, I remembered to include all components except for my usual favorites-- salt and pepper. That's right, dear reader-- there was no salt or pepper added to my meal. Somehow I remembered to salt the pasta water, but nothing else. Sorry, taste buds. You are welcome, blood pressure.

The Verdict:
Despite the lack of salt and pepper, I wouldn't say the dish was bland. For those of you watching your sodium intake, keep this in mind. The garlic, shallots, lemon, wine, and herbs provided a blast of complementary flavors, all without the salt. I would absolutely add it next time, though. Thanks to my friend Rob for chiming in another excellent way to kick up the flavor of the dish. He makes a gremolata (lemon zest, minced garlic, and chopped parsley) as an edible garnish. Brilliant, Rob! Do I smell a guest blog contributor?

Since (as we learned in the last post) Scampi is a dish that started as an ingredient and has since evolved into a preparation style, it is open to interpretation. Lidia Bastianich adds her own touch with tarragon, but after tasting it alone and using a teeny bit in this recipe, I decided to omit it from the updated recipe. Thyme and parsley are more than enough. But I will say that fresh herbs are essential for this recipe.

Finally, I used far less compound butter* than called for in Bastianich's recipe. About half, in fact. I am glad I did, too, because it came in handy for when the linguini started to stick together. The shrimp were still nice and tender.

As for my guests' comments, one of my roommates informed me that if I owned a restaurant I could charge $20 for my entree. Others, however, said that their favorite part was the salad (go figure-- I whipped that up in thirty seconds). I wouldn't say this is the winningest recipe I've made so far, but then again, there was no salt. And food without salt is like a song without harmony... it can be decent, but it's never going to move me.

The final dish-- any size shrimp would work,
but I do love the big guys for the sake of presentation
No recipe for this, but it was too pretty to leave out

The Updated Recipe: Shrimp Prepared Scampi Style, adapted from Lidia's Italian-American Kitchen
Yield: 6 servings
Ingredients:
  • 18 extra jumbo (16/20) shrimp*
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine*
  • 2 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tsp fresh Italian parsley, minced
  • salt and pepper
Preparation:
  • Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. 
  • Add the garlic and cook until pale golden, about 1 minute. 
  • Stir in the shallots, season generously with salt and pepper, and continue cooking, shaking the skillet, until the shallots are wilted, about 2 minutes. 
  • Add 1/4 cup of wine and 1 tbsp lemon juice, bring to a boil, and cook until about half of the wine has evaporated. 
  • Transfer to a large plate and cool completely.
  • Add to a bowl containing the butter and parsley and stir until blended. 
  • Spoon the compound butter* onto a 12-inch length of plastic wrap and roll it into a log shape, completely wrapped in plastic. Chill thoroughly. 
Compound butter rolled into a log.
The colder it gets, the easier it will be to cut.

  • Place the rack in the lowest position and preheat the oven to 475°F. 
  • Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp*, leaving the tail and last shell segment attached. 
  • Using some of the flavored butter, lightly grease a shallow baking pan into which the shrimp fit comfortably without touching.
  • Arrange the shrimp, tails up, on the prepared pan.
The size of your pan doesn't matter, as long as the shrimp
get lined up along the edge with their tails pointing upward.
My pan was enormous, but the empty space did no harm.
  • Cut half of the compound butter into 1/2-inch cubes and disperse the cubes among the shrimp. Save the rest for other uses.
  • Mix the remaining 1/4 cup wine and 1 tablespoon lemon juice and add to the pan. 
  • Scatter the thyme sprigs over and around the shrimp. 
  • Season with salt and pepper and place the pan on the oven rack. 
  • Roast until the shrimp are firm and crunchy and barely opaque in the center, about 7 minutes. 
  • Transfer the shrimp to a hot platter and drain the pan juices into a small pan. 
  • Bring juices to a boil over high heat and boil until the sauce is lightly thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. 
  • Spoon the sauce over the shrimp and serve.
*Tips:
  • Shrimp size: I like giving a shrimp count (rather than poundage) because as long as you need 25 or fewer, the person at the seafood counter should be willing to count them out. After that, you become a little bit obnoxious. However, if you are reading any recipe that refers to pounds of shrimp, each different type of shrimp contains a different quantity of the little guys per pound, so pay attention. My 18 "extra jumbo" shrimp ended up being about one pound.
  • Dry white wine: I always seem to hear the phrase "dry white wine" when it comes to recipes, but have I ever known what that meant? Nope. Thankfully Wine Folly has some words of wisdom on the matter. First of all, never, ever, ever use "cooking wine" from the grocery store. Use something you will actually drink, for heaven's sake! Beyond the golden rule, here are some basic guidelines:
    • Chardonnay (rich and dry) for chicken, cream sauces, and gravies
    • Pinot Grigio/Gris (crisp and dry) for seafood and shellfish
    • Sauvignon Blanc (light and dry) for veggies
  • Cooling sauces: If you need a sauce cooled quickly, pour it into the most shallow heatproof dish possible and pop it in the freezer. The combo of maximum surface area and modern technology will cool it down in no time.
  • Compound butter: This is one of my favorite techniques because of its simplicity and versatility. Compound describes something consisting of two or more separate components (compound sentences, compound numbers, chemical compounds, etc.). So add anything to butter and you have a compound butter. Keep them on hand to spread on bread, top pasta or rice, or pop on a piece of meat before you bake it. Make it sweet, savory, bizarre... whatever your indulgent heart desires.
  • Preparing raw shrimp:
    • Pull of the little legs and run your finger down the front center so the connective tissues break
    • Peel off the shell (leaving the last segment attached if you decide to keep the tail)
    • Run a knife down the back of the shrimp (about 1/4 inch deep)
    • Pull out the digestive tract. (Deveining has nothing to do with veins, although I appreciate the euphemism. Nobody wants to read a cookbook with the word depooping in it.)
    • Feel an overwhelming sense of satisfaction knowing that your shrimp are clean
My trooper sous chef roommate removing the "vein"

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