November 07, 2020. You kids know I’ve been trying to shorten these posts, but it’s been a challenge since I’m having so much fun writing them. But, after mom read the Stay-At-Home Egg Salad post, which I considered to be a bit of a love letter to being home with you kids, and immediately told me it was too long, I decided to try a little harder. Don’t worry, mom would later tell me she loved the post, but I did have to make a little pouty face first. To help speed reads up, I will now post a reasonably concise version of the recipe and follow that up with The Lecture. I know it’s a bit like a doctor taking you out of the waiting room to only make you wait even longer in an examination room, because I’ve just taken one long post and broken it into two shorter posts, but at least it’s a start.
So, without further ado, here’s a great recipe for entertaining that lets you make so many exciting variations when you swap out main ingredients to suit the mood, diet and style of your guests. Surprise your guests, as they open the kitchen door, to find that one night they have a formal mystery dinner date with sophisticated lobster- another night, a casual beach date with fun loving shrimp. Perhaps another time it’s a carefree, spring picnic with fresh asparagus, peas and mushrooms; dinner by the winter fire with rugged root vegetables; or a quiet night with nerdy, cannellini beans. Hopefully, everyone has dressed for the occasion or they’ll be going hungry. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, and you probably don’t because you’re not old like me, you need to learn about the iconic Mystery Date, board game from the 1960s.
Prep Time: 15 minutes- longer if you have to devein any shrimp
Cook Time: 20 minutes, although I don’t like giving cooking times
Servings: Up to 4 players
GET YOUR STUFF OUT
- Your Mystery Date Scampi Main Ingredient,-today we’re bringing 1 pound of frozen, shell on and deveined, Extra Large or Jumbo Shrimp (anywhere from 21 to 30 shrimp per pound) to the party
- kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and maybe a bit of garlic powder if you don’t think that’s too Trailer Park- I don’t
- 1/2 cup of dry white wine if you have it
- 1/4-1/2 canola or extra virgin olive oil
- 3-4 tablespoons of unsalted butter or vegan butter
- 6 fat garlic cloves, grated with a microplane- you may use less depending on your garlic love
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon or more red pepper flakes,
- 1 lemon, zested and then quartered- more if you’re feeling zesty
- 1 pound of pasta, like linguini
- 1/2 a bunch of fresh parsley, minced
- Optional- if you want to swap out the shrimp, skip the The Shrimp- Don’t Overcook It! section below and cook bite sized pieces of a pound of another shellfish or meat or about 4-6 cups of veggies or even a few 15.5 ounce cans of cannellini beans and then add that to the pasta instead of the shrimp at Step 6 of the Scampi Sauce- Don’t Burn the Garlic! section below.
Cook and Play.
Play Dead Shrimp Blues by Robert Johnson and get to cooking those dead shrimp.
The Shrimp- Don’t Overcook It!
- Now’s a good time to start your large pot of pasta water over high heat on the stove.
- Place 1 pound of frozen, shell on and deveined, Extra Large or Jumbo Shrimp (21 to 30 shrimp per pound) in a large bowl. Place the bowl under the tap and allow a small stream of water to constantly run over the shrimp- they will be defrosted in 5-10 minutes. Drain off the water, pop the shells off and make sure to pat them as dry as you can get them with a kitchen towel.
- Season the shrimp with kosher salt, fresh cracked black pepper and maybe a bit of garlic powder if you don’t think that’s too Trailer Park- I don’t!
- Preheat your saute or frying pan (stainless steel is best to build up tasty bits) over medium high heat, add a few tablespoons of the canola oil and bump the heat up a little just before you add the shrimp to account for the colder shrimp lowering the pan temp.
- Add the shrimp to your pan and make sure the first one sizzles or turn up the heat. Don’t overcrowd the pan- you may have to cook in batches- and place the shrimp clockwise in the pan, starting at 12 o’clock, which will help you turn the shrimp in the order they hit the heat, which is important because shrimp cook and over cook quickly. In a minute or two, you will have a touch of gold on those shrimp and that’s when you flip them with a fork to sear the other side for another minute or two. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t fully cook the shrimp because they will cook some more when you toss them with the pasta later on, so get those shrimp right out of the pan and onto a plate in one layer while you make the sauce.
- Turn off the heat when you’re done, but do not clean out the empty pan- you will use it for your sauce.
The Scampi Sauce- Don’t Burn the Garlic!
- As you make your sauce, cook your 1 pound of pasta, like linguini, in a big pot of salted water, a minute or so less than its package suggests- you will finish cooking and flavoring your pasta in the sauce.
- If you have 1/2 cup or so of dry white wine, deglaze the shrimp pan with it- this means to get that pan you cooked the shrimp in to medium high, pour in the wine, scrap up the tasty golden shrimp bits and let it all simmer until the wine is mostly evaporated.
- Add 1/4 cup of canola oil and 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (but you may want to hold back some of the butter/oil until you make your final seasoning adjustments at the end of this recipe) to your pan and adjust the heat to medium low- you don’t want to burn the garlic you are about to add. Add up to 6 fat grated garlic cloves- also, if you didn’t have wine to deglaze the pan, scrape up the tasty golden shrimp bits with the oil, butter and garlic. Adjust the heat so there is a gentle simmer around the garlic and keep an eye on it because it burns to bitter quickly- like Trump on Election Night 2020. Cook the garlic until you just start to see it get a bit golden, about 2-4 minutes, and then take it off the heat until your pasta is ready to go.
- Once the pasta is a minute from being al dente, return your Scampi Sauce to medium low heat and use tongs to pull the pasta out of the water and into the sauce- it’s OK that it’s dripping with pasta water, it will help thicken the sauce a bit (in fact, hold on to that starchy pasta water, if you need to adjust the thickness of your sauce once you toss everything together).
- Toss the pasta around a bit in the sauce and then mix in the zest of one lemon and the juice from 2 wedges of that lemon and shake it all about- like the hokey pokey!
- Toss in the shrimp and accumulated juices and then adjust the heat and taste to finish cooking the shrimp and getting the balance of flavors you want- stir in more lemon juice, oil, butter, pasta water, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, you get the idea- make it your own.
- Finally, top the pasta with 1/2 a bunch of minced fresh parsley.