Monday, April 27, 2009

Shrimp Scampi, Hock-style

The word "scampi" commonly refers to an Italian-American shrimp dish that is served with pasta, usually linguine. One can usually find some variation of this dish in most restaurants. In most popular applications, "scampi" also refers to a method of preparation and the shrimp can sometimes be substituted with chicken. I've had customers at the restaurant ask for chicken scampi instead of the regular shrimp scampi that we serve. Scampi dishes are almost always made up of ingredients like white wine, garlic butter and lemon juice.

For this shrimp scampi dish, I chose to use whole shrimp with the shell and head still intact. The shrimp that you find in most grocery stores are P&D, an industry term that stands for "peeled and de-veined." Shrimp like the ones I have here are actually more expensive but inherently more delicious! The natural flavor of the shrimp is derived mainly from the head and the shell. Leaving them on while cooking adds plenty of flavor to your dishes.

Before we start, let's cook the pasta first--we are using linguine. Bring a pot of salted water to boil and add the pasta. Keep stirring the pasta so that it would not clump up and stick together. The pasta is done when there is just a little crunch in the center when you bite on it. This is also known as "al dente."

Instead of sautéeing the shrimp like one would normally do, I poach them in garlic butter, fresh lemon juice and dry white wine. For extra flavoring, I added pureed basil to the poaching liquid. Shrimp cook quickly and don't really need high heat. A slow poaching approach will infuse a lot of the lemon, butter and garlic flavor into the shrimp and vice-versa--the succulent flavor of the shrimp will also flow into the poaching medium. When the shrimp turn bright red or orange (take your pick), they are cooked. Remove them from the pan and you can add vegetables like asparagus and carrots, which is what I did here. Cook them for a little while and then add the cooked linguine. Sauté the pasta with the vegetables and make sure that everything gets tossed properly. Add the shrimp last to heat them up and you are all set to serve. For garnishing, sprinkle some finely chopped parsley and lemon rind on top of the dish.

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