Much to the surprise of many, scampi (SKAM-pee) is actually the Italian name for the tail portion of several varieties of crustaceans, the most well-known being the Dublin Bay prawn. On U.S. menus, however, it is most often used to describe large shrimp that is butterflied (split), dressed in a butter sauce flavored with garlic and herbs and baked or broiled. It seems Americans love their shrimp and reportedly are consuming three times more than we did 35 years ago. Once thought of as a “special occasion” experience, it can now be found on menus ranging from fine dining to fast food. To keep up with the demand, about 94% of our supply is now farmed and imported from countries such as India, Thailand, Viet Nam and Indonesia. Mass production may satisfy demand but much has been written about the safety of some of the large farming practices.
A recent Consumer Reports article recommends buying wild-caught shrimp that has been sustainably fished whenever possible because, even though it may be more expensive, it is likely to have less bacteria, fewer residues, and less overall negative impact on the environment. The report notes that “of all the shrimp tested, wild shrimp were among the least likely to harbor any kind of bacteria or contain chemicals.” This view was echoed by the American Shrimp Processor’s Association. These reports validate the need to be vigilant consumers raising awareness of “best practices” and carefully reading labels. There is benefit in doing your homework.
That said, I prepared this scampi using a recipe shared by “The Barefoot Contessa” herself, Ina Garten. The shrimp was wild caught, fished sustainably, and swam perfectly in its bath of butter and garlic. Easy to prepare and very impressive, here’s how it goes down.
BAKED SHRIMP SCAMPI Yields 6 servings
Recipe by Ina Garten
2 pounds (12 to 15 per pound) shrimp in the shell
3 tablespoons good olive oil
2 tablespoons dry white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallots
3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary leaves
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko (Japanese dried bread flakes)
Lemon wedges, for serving
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
- Peel, devein, and butterfly the shrimp, leaving the tails on. Place the shrimp in a mixing bowl and toss gently with the olive oil, wine, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the butter and garlic mixture.
- In a small bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots, parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, panko, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper until combined.
- Starting from the outer edge of a 14-inch oval gratin dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer cut side down with the tails curling up and towards the center of the dish. Pour the remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread the butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes until hot and bubbly. If you like the top browned, place under a broiler for 1 minute. Serve with lemon wedges.
Despite the questionable origins of this as actually “scampi,” the buttery, garlicky, herby, lemony sauce is a natural partner for the ever popular crustacean. You might want to serve this with a crusty Italian bread to soak up the remains of the sauce because it is just too delicious to leave behind.
Everyday easy yet fancy enough for company, this is a star making recipe. You carefully chose your shrimp, made this impressive dish, now sit down and enjoy the accolades you will receive for spreading the love, one spectacular dish at a time. Let’s not forget, this Memorial Day holiday, to honor those who have selflessly served their country. Sending love and gratitude to them, their families and to you. Until next time, keep the culinary juices flowing. Jeanne