Scampi means a lot of things all over the
world. Here in the States, it generally means shrimp with garlic and butter. I’m going to
show you a very simple version of it served with rice that my dad taught me. Then I’m
going to show you a slightly more elaborate version of it that I do with pasta. Both versions
use my dad’s secret ingredient. I almost always buy my shrimp frozen. It’s
cheaper, the quality is more reliable and they thaw very fast. I’m just submerging them
in plenty of lukewarm water from the tap. If you’re in a hurry, you could change this
water once or twice, or leave the faucet trickling, but shrimp are so small that these will thaw
in like 20 minutes with no further attention from me, during which time I’ll get my rice
started. This how I usually do white rice; this is not how my dad taught me. Basically
I start it like risotto. A little butter in a hot pan, then in goes a cup of jasmine rice,
which has a really nice flavor, and then I just move it around and toast it in the pan
for minute. I have not rinsed this rice. Maybe I’m the minority, but most of the time I actually
want my rice to be clumpy, not fluffy. OK, in goes one and a half cups of water to
one cup rice. I tend to like the firmer, dryer texture that you get by being conservative
with the water. I’ll mix in a big pinch of salt and immediately turn the heat down to
a low simmer and cover it. That’s ample rice for two people. I’m making two portions of
the rice scampi and two of the pasta scampi. Now, vegetable prep. I’m peeling and chopping
half a head of garlic. That’s a lot of garlic for two portions, but that’s what scampi means
to me. You could use less. Now here’s dad’s secret ingredient: celery leaves. They are
so good. Whenever I buy celery I look for the stalks that have the most leaves still
on them. It’s basically just a fresh herb that tastes strongly of celery without having
the celery texture that some people, such as my wife, find objectionable. Just roughly chopping a nice big bunch, so
that I have kinda equal piles of garlic and celery leaves. Shrimp is thawed. Here’s a plate covered in
paper towels to hold my peeled shrimp. They cook better if when they’re dry. And you can
see here that these are “de-veined,” but unpeeled shrimp. That usually my preferred way to get
them. The processor has cut off the heads and then cut down the back of the shrimp,
thus making them much easier to peel. The big question is whether you want to bother
trying to get the shell off of the tail. A lot of people are happy to leave them on
and then just eat around them on the plate. I prefer to try to get it off. You kinda have
to pinch the tail shell at the very and gingerly slide it off without accidentally tearing
off the meat inside it. 10 percent of the time, I fail. But I would rather sacrifice
a little bit of meat than have to worry about shells when I’m eating. Ah, there, you can see the “vein” that we’re
talking about — it’s of course not a a vein at all, but the shrimp’s intestinal tract
containing remnants of its last meal. Even the if the bag says deveined, there’s usually
some shrimp in there that still have it. It’s gross to think about, but it’s not really
a problem. People eat the vein all the time. It’s not really perceivable and it’s not dangerous.
It’s mostly silt. Now when you’re done, you can just pour out
the water, and then do yourself a favor and throw those shells directly into your compost
or outdoor trash. Shrimp shells can stink up a kitchen real fast. So that’s a pound of shrimp, enough for at
least four people. I might dab them with another paper towel just to get them as dry as possible. You can see my rice here has been done for
a while. It only takes like 15 minutes, but I always get it going early as possible because
I prefer rice after its just kinda rested on warm for a long time. Alright, pan for the shrimp goes on medium
heat, and I’ll melt in just a little bit of butter to start with. We’re gonna put in more
butter later. This is just enough for getting the shrimp cooked through. When the butter
is good and hot, I’ll dump in half a pound of shrimp, enough for two big portions, and
I’m making sure that they’re all in one layer and lying flat. My dad lays them in one by
one, which is probably smarter. Shrimp cooks incredibly fast — 2 to 5 minutes
total, depending on their size. I reckon these will take four minutes. When the first side
is visibly cooked, when it’s changed color, I will flip them around. Dad flips them one
at a time with tongs. My approach is admittedly more chaotic. I’m not seasoning these, by
the way, because I’m using salted butter, and shrimp are naturally salty anyway. When the shrimp have just gone opaque all
the way through, I will remove them to a plate. If you had a wider pan than I do, you could
maybe just push them all to the sides, but this will make it all but impossible to overcook
them. Then, in goes more butter — I’d say at least
a tablespoon per portion. The butter is the sauce for this. Get it melting and then throw
in the garlic. Move it all around and get it cooking for a sec, just to soften the pieces
and to take the edge off the flavor, then in goes the celery leaves and the shrimp.
You could put in some pepper, but if you’re using salted butter like I am, you probably
don’t want any additional salt. Get everything coated and then take the pan off the heat. Cover the plate with rice. I love my rice
a little clumpy like that. Maybe make a little well in the center to hold the shrimp, and
then shovel in the shrimp, being sure to get any of the loose garlic butter that might
still be in the pan. There you go — one of the first things my dad taught me how to
cook. The flavor of those celery leaves goes so well with shrimp, and they look pretty.
You can squeeze on some lemon over that if you want. I’m going to show you in a sec how
I’ve tried to advance this recipe a little bit, but this is a totally solid, easy weeknight
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recipe. I start with the same half head of garlic and an equivalent pile of chopped celery
leaves for two big portions. I’ve got some water on the boil for pasta and I’ve got my
super-deep Chrissy Teigen pan for the shrimp. You need something big enough to toss the
pasta and the shrimp together in. Medium-high heat on the pan, and then olive oil, not butter.
I don’t want to just cook the shrimp; I want to brown the shrimp, and butter might burn
at this higher temperature. When it’s hot, in goes half a pound of shrimp, again, making
sure they’re all more or less flat and in one layer. I find the timing works perfectly if I get
the shrimp in, and then put in my linguine, which will take about 12 minutes in salted
boiling water. Yes I break my pasta in half. My dad breaks it. His Italian mother broke
it. It just makes long pastas easier to eat, but you do you. Now, shrimp, like any meat, tastes amazing
when it gets browned, but people rarely cook it that far because they’re afraid of overcooking
the shrimp and turning them into rubber. My solution to this problem is cook the shrimp
really hot and like 80 percent of the way on one side. I’m only browning side A. You
can really smell the browning by the time they’re ready to flip, and when I flip after
about three minutes, I use a wooden spoon to scrape them up off the pan. They’ll be
stuck. Then I’ll just move them around and let the
rest of each shrimp finish cooking through via steam or direct heat for like another
minute, then remove them to the plate. Might want to turn that heat down, then real quick,
before the fond burns, in goes the garlic. Just fry that for a minute, then deglaze with
white wine. I’d guess that’s maybe half a cup. I’m also gonna squeeze in a little lemon
— just a few drops, or more if you really like lemon. Then I’m gonna reduce this almost
dry, or “au sec” as the French say, because my goal here is to make a crude beurre blanc
sauce. That’s an emulsion of melted butter and reduced white wine and/or vinegar or lemon
juice. If you wanted to avoid the white wine, my advice is always water spiked with white
balsamic vinegar. You have to cool the pan down before you put in the butter, otherwise
it will break. The bubbling should be almost over. My heat’s off, and that’s ready. People usually mix in a few little chunks
of butter at a time, because if you introduce the butter too fast, again, the emulsion will
break — the fat will just separate out. But I find that if you put in one giant chunk
of cold butter, it’s gonna melt really slowly, because of the low surface area. I’m doing
four tablespoons of butter — that’s two per portion. Just mixing constantly and letting
it melt in the residual heat of the pan. We’re gonna toss our pasta in there, and I
have found that the heat of the pasta can be enough to break this sauce, so what I do
these days is put in a tiny little pinch of my new best friend in the kitchen — xanthan
gum. You can get this in the baking isle of grocery stores now. It’s an amazing stabilizer
and thickener. If you try to dissolve it into water, in clumps up horribly, but it dissolves
smoothly into fat. This is melted butter. You can see the powder dissolves right into
that, even though butter is like 15 percent water. So for a mostly fat sauce like beurre blanc,
you can just drop in a pinch, and that is gonna make this sauce just bullet proof. It
will not break. I like some chili flakes in there for heat, and also some black pepper.
Really, no additional salt, again because I’m using salted butter. Pasta is now done, and I am pouring off some
of the water but not all. I’d say a quarter cup of that water is an essential ingredient
in my sauce. In goes the pasta with that little bit of water, and I’ll start stirring it in.
I find that if the sauce looks a little bit too loose and soupy at this stage, then it’s
gonna be perfect by the time I actually eat it. In go those delicious celery leaves and
the shrimp. I just wanna heat both back up again and get them integrated, I don’t want
to cook them any more. Eh, I think I want some more chili flakes.
And there you go. Tongs are usually best for getting this kind of thing out onto a plate,
because you can use them to grab and straggler shrimp. Some people have rules against mixing
shellfish with cheese — not just religious rules, but I mean culinary rules, which to
many Italians are basically like religion. I dunno, a little grated pecorino tastes real
good on this to me. But you do you. That sauce is so delicious, and the xanthan gum takes
all the stress out of it. It also improves the texture, I think. Real smooth. Dad’s celery
leaf trick is of course genius, and look at the color on that shrimp. When I first figured
out that I could brown shrimp without overcooking it, that was a game-changer for me. So, dad’s version or my version, take your
pick and dig in.