Shrimp Scampi. Easy. Shrimp, garlic, butter. But the best success for tender shrimp in a delish sauce is all in how you cook it.
The story of Shrimp Scampi
There are certainly quick and easy dinners I make all the time that I never actually think to write a recipe for. This Shrimp Scampi is one of those. Quick, easy, delish. A family favorite. I make it all the time.
In preparing to write this recipe down, I did a little research into other scampi recipes. All use pretty much the same ingredients; shrimp, oil or butter, garlic. This is, after all, the essence of Shrimp Scampi. But the techniques used in making scampi can be very different. Some recipes have you browning the garlic in oil until it's brown.
Browned garlic = bitter garlic.
Some have you frying the shrimp at a high temperature. High temp frying can easily turn tender shrimp into tough shrimp.
Some add a lot of wine, some don't add any.
So it's time I wrote down what I do and why I do it that way. And of course why my way is the best way.
What is Scampi? And why is mine different...
Scampi is the Italian word for langoustines. And originally this dish was made with langoustines which are actually more slipper lobster-like in texture and size than shrimp. So you could actually make this with small lobster tails or cut a large tail into smaller pieces.
Oh, wouldn't that be good?
But I digress.
The shrimp I used this night was extra-jumbo shrimp. U/6. The U stands for under. Or about how many you get per pound. So my shrimp were under 6 per pound. Most of the time you will find shrimp to be U 21/25 or U/10. So you know mine was extra extra jumbo shrimp (one of my favorite oxymorons). But the size only makes a difference in how long you would need to cook them, so any size shrimp you get will work for shrimp scampi, but larger is better.
Butterfly the shrimp to make it better
Even when I make scampi with regular old jumbo shrimp, I like to butterfly them when I shell and devein them. Butterflying means cutting them almost through but not quite. I just find I'm not crazy about the crunch you get in the middle of a whole shrimp and butterflying them results in not only them cooking quicker and more evenly, but they cook up more tender as well. And with the open shrimp, there are more nooks and crannies for the garlicky butter to adhere to. With my super jumbo shrimp, I cut them completely in half.
So that's the first thing I do differently. I butterfly my shrimp.
Getting the best garlic in your garlicky sauce
The second important part of this dish is the garlicky sauce. Cause again, what is shrimp scampi? Shrimp in garlic butter. So the garlicky butter sauce is key. Right?
As I said, many recipes tell you to heat some oil in a skillet, add the garlic and brown it, or cook 30 seconds until fragrant.
Here's what I do...
Over medium-low heat, heat the oil and butter; add the garlic and red pepper flakes, stir and cook for about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Turn off the heat and let it sit, for 15 minutes or more. You can do this while you prepare your shrimp. Now you have some garlicky oil and butter to sauté your shrimp. Flavortown!
Finish it up
After your shrimps are prepped, your oil is ready, it's time to cook the shrimp. Reheat the garlicky oil/butter over medium-low heat, when hot add the shrimp and cook and stir over medium-low heat until the shrimp are just beginning to cook, (you want them to be opaque and just turning pink) it won't take but 3 to 5 minutes at the most. This lower temp cooking method keeps the shrimp nice and tender so you don't have to worry about overcooked tough shrimp.
Then add a splash of wine (remember that cooking term splash? A splash is equal to about a quarter cup); a nice Sauvignon Blanc works well here with its hint of citrus. Let simmer for a couple of minutes, just enough to cook off the alcohol, then stir in a pat of cold butter to finish the delish sauce, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice for brightness, and some freshly chopped parsley.
Voila, that's it!
Serve with pasta and some crunchy bread. A salad is nice too.
- 1 ½ pounds shrimp try for u/10 or u/16
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter divided
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic or more or less, to taste
- ½ to 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes again to taste
- ¼ cup white wine a sauvignon blanc, pinot gris or white vermouth all work well
- ½ of a lemon
- ¼ cup fresh minced parsley
- Salt and freshly ground pepper white works here
- In a large saute pan over medium-low heat, melt 1 tablespoon of the butter in the olive oil. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; cook, slowly, for about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes while you prepare the shrimp.
- Step 2Shell and devein the shrimp. (if using frozen, defrost). Butterfly by slicing almost in half lengthwise and open them up like a book. Sprinkle with salt and pepper (white pepper works well here).
- When the shrimp are ready to cook, reheat the oil/butter/garlic over medium-low heat. When hot, add the shrimp and cook, stirring often, until just opaque and turning pink. Add the wine and cook for about 2 minutes, then stir in the remaining tablespoon butter; squeeze the lemon juice over and stir in the parsley. Remove from the heat and serve.