May 30, 2012
I can’t say that I describe food as “sneaky” all that often, but this Baked Shrimp Scampi is exactly that. At first glance, it’s a beautiful, delicate dish that makes you secretly wish you had some sort of fancy Sunday garden party to host. There would be dresses involved—girly and floral—as well as some outrageously large hats, perhaps even a strand or two of pearls. Despite living in Texas (a.k.a. the fiery core of the sun itself), there would be wrought iron tables set on the lawn and the weather would carry a pleasant, cool breeze. All ants, wasps, bees, and lunatic squirrels would scurry and buzz and march their ways back where they belong, leaving every morsel of herby, lemony, baked shrimp for you and your guests to enjoy.
But here’s where the sneaky part comes in. Lurking in the crevices of the aforementioned simple, exquisite dish there lies a saboteur, something that will make those girly, floral party dresses squeal in horror and set their gracefully stitched seams aquiver with fear, because they know there is no way they will fit after their owner partakes in a serving (or two) of Baked Shrimp Scampi. Worse, they know that their owner will be positively unable to resist this dish’s secret ingredient, the representative credo of all foodies.
What is this deliciously dangerous ingredient, you ask?
Why, it’s nothing but your everyday, makes-everything-on-Earth-and-several-minor-planets-taste-amazing, good old-fashioned butter. Lots of butter. We’re talking a stick and a half, filled with garlic, bread crumbs, lemon, shallots, and herbs, then spread across a huge baking dish of shrimp. After a quick trip to the oven, it’s the most delicious creation of rich, buttery goodness that seafood has even seen.
Which is why I say this dish is sneaky. What is essentially the fancy shmancy version of all the other artery-clogging delicacies we not-so-secretly adore, Baked Shrimp Scampi tricks our poor, trans-fat-addled brains into believing that it’s a light, subdued treat. Now, does that stop us (and by “us,” I mean “me”) from continuing to devour these yummy shrimp by the bucket and mopping up the delectable sauce from the bottom of the pan with every variety of bread within arm’s reach?
Not a bit.
I just thought I should warn you about what you’re getting yourself into. Save the cocktail dresses for another day and break out the stuff with a bit of stretch. Go to the grocery store with no makeup and buy a nice baguette to soak up all that buttery goodness. It’s an indulgence that’s impossible to regret.
Baked Shrimp Scampi
Recipe Adapted from “Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics” by Ina Garten
2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, (optional: tails removed)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons white wine
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
4 teaspoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1/4 cup minced shallots or 4 green onions, white parts only
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 extra-large egg yolk
2/3 cup panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs, if you are tragically panko-less like I was)
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly butter a 14-inch oval baking dish and set aside.
Butterfly the shrimp and place in a large bowl, tossing gently with the olive oil and white wine, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, mash the softened butter with the garlic, shallots (or green onions), parsley, rosemary, red pepper flakes, lemon zest, lemon juice, egg yolk, and panko. Add salt and pepper to taste, but no more than 1/2 teaspoon each, since the shrimp is already seasoned as well.
Starting from the outer edge of the baking dish, arrange the shrimp in a single layer, butterflied side down, with the tails curling towards the center. Pour remaining marinade over the shrimp, then spread the butter mixture evenly over the the shrimp as well. Bake for 10-12 minutes, until hot and bubbly. Turn on the broiler and let the topping brown for another minute, then remove from the oven and serve immediately.