I've been getting a little tired lately of having the same old options for what to cook for supper: chicken, beef, pork or fish. What makes matters worse, it feels like we've been having more chicken and less of everything else, but that's partly due to my conscious attempt to limit the amount of red meat we consume. I decided to branch out the other day and do something with tiger shrimp and/or scallops, (which I personally prefer over shrimp but not everyone in my household concurs). As I started scanning the results of my search for 'shrimp and scallop recipes', one dish kept popping up over and over...Scampi. Then it occurred to me: not only have I never actually eaten scampi, not to the best of my memory anyway, but I wasn't even really sure what it was. Odd really....Shrimp Scampi seems so deeply entrenched in our vernacular and I didn't even really know what it was! So I decided to ask a few people: my husband, mom, a couple of friends, a lady at the grocery store. Every single one of them started their sentence with, 'Isn't that....'. Some thought it was shrimp cooked in garlic butter, others in white wine sauce, and the grocery store lady said seared shrimp in garlic butter with some sort of sauce served over pasta.
Needless to say, I had to do some research on the matter. Turns out scampi isn't a way to serve shrimp at all! Scampi are actually tiny lobster-like creatures with pale pink shells called langoustines that can be found in parts of the Mediterranean Sea and the North Eastern Atlantic ocean. In Italy, a traditional way to cook them is to saute the langoustines in olive oil, garlic, onion and white wine. Because of the inavailability of langoustines in America, Italian immigrant cooks swapped shrimp for scampi but kept both names to identify the dish. Thus, Shrimp Scampi was born. Depending on the region, other variations were made based on the availability of ingredients as well, with the addition of tomatoes, breadcrumbs, spices and herbs and serving the dish over rice, orzo or pasta.
To me, all of this new info was pretty darn exciting because that meant, I could male MY Shrimp Scampi, MY way and if that meant adding scallops, who's to say it was wrong? No one I tell you....no one! It was both a liberating and somewhat terrifying feeling all at the same time but I sat myself down and quckly gave myself a little pep talk: 'Calm down...how hard can this be? Some shrimp, some scallops, butter, garlic, little lemon juice, white wine, toss in some fresh basil and perhaps garnish with a little fresh Italian parsley. Badda boom ,badda bing! Shrimp and Scallop Scampi!
My first order of business was to get all of my ingredients together because despite it's fancy schmancy sounding name, Shrimp and Scallop Scampi would take less than 30 minutes from start to table and nothing makes things run more smoothly in the kitchen than having everything at your fingertips!
Butter, freshly squeezed lemon juice, chopped fresh Italian Parsley, chopped fresh basil, couple of cloves of garlic, some capers, a little pesto, 16 tiger shrimp, 16 medium sized sea scallops and some dry linguine noodles. Oh, and even though you can't seem 'em, I decided to add some roasted cherry tomatoes to my dish...and garlic toast to serve on the side. The cherry tomatoes would take about 15-20 minutes to roast on 400 degrees Fahrenheit, and the garlic toast only about 5 minutes at that temperature. So I got those ready first. I then put a large pot of salted water on to boil and got ready to make my main dish....Shrimp and Scallop Scampi!
With the tomatoes all tucked away in the oven, roasting away, and the pot of salted water coming to a boil, I started heating a large skillet over medium high heat. While it was heating, I patted the shrimp and scallops dry with a little paper towel and seasoned them on both sides with freshly ground sea salt and black pepper. When the skillet was hot, I added 1 and 1/2 Tbsp of butter and then added the shrimp. When the shrimp were golden on one side, after about 3 minutes, I flipped them over and added half of my garlic. When the garlic was fragrant but the shrimp were still somewhat translucent, I transferred the shrimp to a plate and kept them warm while I cooked the scallops.
Don't these shrimp look simply MAHVELOUS?? I cooked the scallops in the exact same matter - golden brown on one side, flip, add garlic, couple of minutes cooking time and then onto the plate with the shrimp. I totally forgot to take a piture of the scallops but dont judge me! It's hard being a culinary genius AND photographer, particularly at the same time!
Oh, just after the first flip of the shrimp, I added about a pound of dry linguine pasta to the boiling salted water. After removing the scallops from the skillet, I added 2 Tbs of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a 1/2 cup of dry white wine to the skillet, let that simmer and reduce, all the while scraping up all the yummy brown bits in the pan, (and placed the garlic bread in the oven). When the sauce was reduced, after about 2-3 minutes, I added the shrimp and scallops back to the skillet, along with 1/4 c. roughly chopped fresh basil, a handful of capers (rinsed and drained), a couple of tablespoons of pesto and 2 Tbsp butter, plus a little seasoning of freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.
Next thing I knew, my pasta was ready and the oven timer went off for the garlic toast and roasted tomatoes. I turned the oven off, drained the pasta, poured it into a serving dish added the shrimp/scallop mixture and roasted cherry tomatoes, tossed it all about and sprinkled on some freshly chopped Italian parsley.
And here you have it....all ready to serve! A meal fit for a queen!! And in under 30 minutes!
Probaby one of the best things about this dish is the simplicity of ingredients. But you just can't beat the aroma of shrimp and scallops sauteed with garlic and butter and , in my opinion, adding wine to any dish amps it right up!
Tell me these shrimp and scallops aren't mouth-watering! And those roasted cherry tomatoes? Just the right amount of sweetness. The capers added to the zing from the lemon juice and white wine while the basil and pesto added a beautiful earthy balance to the dish.
Shrimp and Scallop Scampi was definitely a big hit with my family this past Monday night, I can tell you that much! This is definitely a dish I'll make again and, even better, one I will gladly prepare for dinner guests.