Valentine’s Day is just over a week away. Have you made plans for the most romantic evening of the year? Sarcasm notwithstanding, it is a good excuse for a special meal with your sweetie(s). Now you can choose to brave the dreary February weather, book far in advance and pay inflated menu prices. Or you can do it the Katie way – hunker down at home and make it a special evening with Baked Shrimp Scampi.
This recipe is seriously the best when it comes to easy effort, fancy yield. And it’s garlicky, buttery, and lemony. What more could you want in a dish?
Preparation and assembly can be done earlier in the day and just pop it in the oven 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat. Serve it with crusty bread or rice for soaking up the wonderful melty garlic butter.
Buy shrimp (prawns) from the best fishmonger (seafood shop) around (and for me that’s without a doubt Sandy’s in Twickenham – it’s fab!). General wisdom is that raw, shell-on, medium- to large-sized shrimp are best. Cooked shrimp tend to be tough and rubbery; if they come peeled they tend to be a bit mushy. Size isn’t necessarily an indication of quality, it’s just that it requires less time to peel 2 lbs of medium or large shrimp than 2 lbs of small shrimp. However when working on this recipe (and I do test the recipes many times to sort these things out for you, my readers!) the peeled shrimp from Sandy’s is 10x’s better than the shell-on shrimp from the local grocery store (which will remain nameless). And they’re both frozen; most shrimp you buy in the store is or was at some time. Moral of the story: buy shrimp, and any seafood for that matter, from the best fishmonger around. Oh, and my fishmonger is less expensive than the supermarket…another bonus!
Unsalted butter is preferable, though if you only have salted butter just omit the salt from the rest of the recipe. To soften the butter, set it on the counter the night before (assuming your house isn’t an icebox, as mine currently is), or alternately microwave it on low for a bit, being careful that it doesn’t melt.
This dish can be prepared in a single, medium-sized shallow baking dish (I use my enamel tart pan) or if you prefer individual servings, use oven-safe ramekins. The individual servings are particularly nice if you’re having a dinner party or serving the scampi as a first course.
Up until now the recipe has been super easy. The assembly can be a bit fiddly, but follow these tips and you’ll be fine. When you place the shrimp in the baking dish they will flop over, but as you add more, prop them against each other and they’ll eventually stand up with the tail curling towards the middle. The butter mixture can be a bit messy to spread as well (you can see in my picture above, it’s not terribly pretty). I gently pry the tail back slightly, working two shrimp at a time, and smear the garlic butter under the curled tail. Any excess just gets plopped on top. Again, not terribly pretty, but the finished dish still looks lovely.
So whether it’s Valentine’s Day or your next special occasion (or you just are in the mood to treat yourself), try Baked Shrimp Scampi.
Baked Shrimp Scampi (serves 4-6)
Note: Be sure to zest the lemon prior to juicing it. Panko are crisp, Japanese bread crumbs. They have a larger “crumb” than typical bread crumbs and provide a really nice crunch to the shrimp. You can devein the shrimp, if you wish, but I find it an unnecessary waste of time (not mincing words today). Use a white wine that you’ll want to drink – white wine goes really well with the shrimp.
2 lbs (1 kg) shrimp/prawns in the shell
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
Garlic Butter Mixture:
1 stick (110 grams) unsalted butter, softened
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 tablespoons minced shallot
2 tablespoons minced parsley
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (depending how spicy you want it)
1/2 cup (40 grams) panko bread crumbs
Preheat oven to 450º F (225º C).
Peel the shrimp and place them in a medium bowl. Toss shrimp with olive oil, wine, salt and pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature while you make the garlic butter mixture.
In a small bowl combine all of the garlic butter mixture ingredients (butter through panko).
Arrange shrimp in a single layer in a shallow, medium-sized baking dish (i.e. gratin dish, tart pan) with tails curling up towards center of dish. Pour remaining marinade over the shrimp. Spread butter mixture evenly over the shrimp. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until hot and butter is bubbling. Serve with crusty bread for mopping up the delicious melted garlic butter.
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics