Sunday, January 08, 2006

Shrimp Scampi Pasta

I love seafood, especially shellfish, and one of my favorite bug-o-the-sea is shrimp. My favorite preparation of shrimp is garlic and butter which in most of the U.S. is known as "scampi". To some in other countries "scampi" is actually the shrimp itself or a particular kind of shrimp - usually with claws like a mini lobster. (see difference below: top picture is shrimp, bottom picture is scampi)

I got a great deal on shrimp a few weeks back with the plan of just eating them with a shrimp sauce...until I saw a Red Lobster commercial with Shrimp Scampi in it. YUMMMY!! So I set out to learn how to make the stuff myself.

Shrimp is sold in number per pound. The less shrimp you get per pound the more expensive the shrimp. Some argue that the smaller the shrimp (the more shrimp per pound) the more flavorful the shrimp is. My shrimp was 80/100, which is small, but was perfect for pasta.

Shrimp Scampi is just garlic, butter, a little olive oil if you like, salt and parsley. Very simple recipe. If you want to eat it just on its own, you will want to clarify the butter. I haven't figured out how to do that yet, hence the pasta.

I can't remember how much butter or garlic I used. I think it might have been a whole stick of butter and almost a whole bulb (not clove, the whole BULB!) of garlic. I LOVE garlic and butter!! You can use as much or as little of either that you prefer. You can chop up the butter to make it melt faster and the garlic needs to be chopped finely before adding. The parsley isn't important to measure either. I used about a handful of it. Yeah, I'm lazy. I don't like to dig out and dirty measuring utensils so I use my hands to measure most of the time.

Make sure that the temp isn't too high. You want the temp high enough to melt the butter but not so high that it burns the butter. I think I used medium heat.

Throw the butter and garlic in a pan. You can also throw in the salt at this point. I use sea salt because I like the flavor of it. It is far less harsh and much more layered than regular table salt.

While you are melting the butter, start a pot of water for the pasta. I just used spaghetti, because that is what I had. You could use what ever you have. You'll want to put a little olive oil and salt in the water. The salt brings out the flavor in the pasta and the oil keeps the pasta from sticking.

Only put the pasta in once the water is boiling and keep the water boiling until the pasta is done. A huge mistake that people make when making pasta (besides picking yucky brands: I prefer Barilla brand pasta. It cooks up perfectly and has a great, fresh flavor) is that the water isn't hot enough. That, and they over cook the pasta. Pasta should be cooked until it's almost done. It will continue to cook after you take it off the heat. When the pasta is getting near done, you should periodically pull a piece out and bite into it to see where it's at. You want to take it off the heat and drain it when there is just a tiny bit of bite left in the pasta, especially for this recipe since you will be adding the pasta to the shrimp pan for the last minute or so of cooking time.

Once the butter is melted, then throw in the shrimp. Mine was frozen, and maybe I should have thawed it first, but did I mention that I am lazy? Well, more like efficient. I like to get rid of unnecessary steps.

A huge mistake that people make when cooking seafood is over-cooking it. When the seafood is raw, it is translucent. You want to cook it until it has just turned opaque. Over-cooking seafood makes it tough and rubbery. Perfectly cooked seafood should be tender and flaky (except cephalopods - I think they will pretty much always be at least a little rubbery).

Once the shrimp has just turned opaque, throw in the parsley and drained pasta (assuming that the pasta is finished cooking by now - you might want to cook your pasta ahead of time to be sure that it is ready by this point in the cooking). Mix everything well and cook for another minute or so to mix the flavors.

Serve immediately, which shouldn't be a problem because you are probably starving by now!! And believe me, this tastes even better than it looks! ::drool::

The shrimp image was borrowed from www.scampirestaurant.com
The scampi image was borrowed from www.chartingnature.com

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