Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Recipe: Shrimp Scampi

If you've ever watched the movie "Defending Your Life" by Albert Brook's you'll surely remember the restaurant scene? The movie is Brook's look at the afterlife and consequently (among many things) the restaurants and food to be found there. In that scene Brook's character, now deceased, dines in an afterlife restaurant, and the food, its calories and other health implications are meaningless and the waiter just indulges the patron's desires much to Brook's bewilderment. You can see the scene here on YouTube.

When I prepare shrimp scampi, that scene often comes to mind because overindulging in shrimp scampi with no health implications would surely be a little bit of heaven to me. I love shrimp scampi. Unfortunately, with my family's medical history, shrimp scampi is a cholesterol and saturated-fat-packed shotgun pointed right at my heart! So while this recipe is a huge personal favorite, I don't prepare it all that often. Yeah, way to bring down the enthusiasm for something that is so good!

You'll notice that I prepare the shrimp differently than other scampi recipes. Tossing them with some brown or turbinado sugar and then precooking them gives the shrimp a wonderful snap and good texture. This is not one of those depressing mushy scampi dishes! Also, I leave you a little margin in how much shrimp you want to put in and how spicy you like the dish. Personally, more shrimp is better for me, but I tend to stay on the low end of the amount of red pepper flakes written below. My wife and kids don't like it too spicy. If you like a little fire in your scampi, go for it.
Also, I have easily converted this to chicken scampi by substituting chicken for the shrimp (der!) and omitting tossing it with the sugar. Just sauté the chicken in the oil until it is just done and then proceed with the recipe as written.

Shrimp Scampi

1/4 cup olive oil
1 to 1-1/2 lbs. raw shrimp (peeled, deveined, rinsed and blotted dry)
2 tsp brown or turbinado sugar
4 large cloves of garlic (chopped)
1/4 to 1/2 tsp dried red-pepper flakes
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
5 Tbs sweet butter
1 lb. of your favorite long pasta (angel hair, linguini, etc.)
1-2 plum tomatoes (diced)
1/2 cup parsley (chopped)

Place a large pan filled with water on high heat and bring to a boil while you prepare the other ingredients. Cook pasta until it is al dente.

Toss the shrimp with the sugar until they are evenly coated. Set aside while you prepare your other ingredients.

When all the other ingredients are ready, place a deep heavy skillet over medium high heat. Add the oil when it begins to shimmer and carefully cook the shrimp in small batches. Cooking about one minute per side. Remove the shrimp, set aside and keep warm while you continue to prepare the rest of the sauce.

Add the chopped garlic to the oil remaining in the skillet along with the red pepper flakes, wine, salt and pepper and cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally for about 1 minute.

Add the butter to skillet, stirring until melted, and stir in the shrimp, diced tomato and parsley. Remove the skillet from the heat.

As the pasta finishes cooking, reserve 1 cup pasta water. Drain the pasta and toss it well with shrimp, sauce and parsley in large serving bowl.

If the mix seems dry, add the reserved pasta water as needed.

Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan-reggiano cheese with a good crusty bread on the side.

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