Shrimp. It’s America’s favorite shellfish and, by some accounts, the country’s best selling seafood. Most Americans can rattle off at least one beloved shrimp recipe. Along with shrimp cocktail, the dish most often mentioned to me is shrimp scampi.
By definition scampi is not a culinary preparation but instead a small lobster—about 10 inches in length—found from Iceland to Morocco. In French it’s known as langoustine. The Italians refer to it as scampi. Others call it a Norway lobster or Dublin prawn. Yet, in North America, scampi has come to mean sautéing medium- to large-sized shrimp alongside garlic, butter and white wine and then serving the resulting dish over pasta. Go figure!
I’ve mentioned previously how you should purchase frozen shrimp and defrost the shellfish shortly before cooking. That way, you’re not buying already-defrosted-and-languishing-in-a-supermarket-seafood-case shrimp that you’re forced to cook right away. To defrost the shrimp, place the frozen bag in your refrigerator and allow the contents to thaw overnight. If you’re pressed for time, you can place the shrimp in a bowl filled with cold water and allow them to sit for 20 to 30 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t pop them into the microwave and hit the “defrost” button. You’ll end up with rubbery, singed shrimp.
When buying shrimp, I look at the size count. The smaller the count (i.e.16-20, 21-25, etc.), the larger the shrimp. I also get shell-on shrimp. The shells protect the shrimp, add flavor and can be used to make a delicious seafood stock. I likewise try to buy deveined shrimp. Although it’s not necessary to devein small shrimp, which are those falling into the 51-60 count and higher, keep in mind that, when you devein, you’re actually removing the shrimp’s intestinal track. Aesthetics aside, the vein does make some diners a bit squeamish.
This brings me to Spicy Shrimp Scampi. My version of the American favorite includes a touch of heat, courtesy of red pepper flakes, and, thanks to dried herbs, a bit of complexity. I also replace the butter with extra virgin olive oil.
SPICY SHRIMP SCAMPI
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 pounds (26-30 count) frozen shrimp, defrosted and peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1 1/2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes or to taste
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound cooked linguine or fettucine, optional, for serving
Place 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan and heat on medium-high. Once the oil is shimmering and hot, add the shrimp and garlic. Reduce the heat to medium.
Cook the shrimp for 2 minutes before turning them over and allowing them to cook on the other side for another minute.
Add the dried herbs, red pepper flakes, remaining olive oil and wine and toss to combine. Simmer the ingredients together until all the shrimp have curled slightly and turned coral in color, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat. Pour the scampi into a large bowl or toss it together with the pre-cooked linguine. Serve hot.