Shrimp scampi has always been my favorite fancy dinner since childhood, but the challenge I previously had was how to prepare them for my family. Well, let’s just say that was before I came across the America’s Test Kitchen cook show, because the moment I landed on their Shrimp Scampi Recipe, things have changed.
The thing is, the trouble only comes in when you have to prepare the shrimp, because once they’re ready and all that, you’ll only need like 5 minutes to have them cooked.
There are countless number of ways that shrimp can be cooked but the classic method leaves you with a simple sauce comprising of wine, garlic and butter; something you can comfortably pair with a bowl of pasta or crusty bread. You’ll agree with me that it’s rightfully the most popular seafood in the United Sates because it has it all in terms of nutritional value, affordability and ease of preparation. Now, if you also want to join the revolution and try your own dish at the comfort of your home, here’s the America’s Test Kitchen Shrimp Scampi Recipe to help guide you:
Shrimp Scampi Recipe Inspired by America’s Test Kitchen
- 3 tablespoons salt
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 ½ pounds shell-on jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled, deveined, and tails removed, shells reserved
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 8 garlic cloves, sliced thin
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
The shrimp recommended size required for this recipe is 21-25 pounds. However, this can be substituted with a jumbo-sized shrimp. But when a jumbo one is used, ensure that you reduce the cooking time by two minutes considering that it will cook faster, and you don’t want to have overcooked shrimp.
Still on shrimp, the nature also matters, that is, whether it’s treated or not. When shopping, always check to see if they’re treated with sodium or any other preservative like sodium tripolyphosphate. The best option is the untreated type but if you prefer treated shrimp, you won’t have to go through the brining step and all you have to do is add about ¼ teaspoon of salt to your sauce.
First you need to get the brining started, so in a large container, dissolve sugar and salt together with 1 quart of water. Place the shrimp in the brine (ensuring that it’s fully submerged) cover the container and let it refrigerate for 15 minutes. Once that is done, remove the shrimp and pat dry using dry paper towels to remove excess brine. However as mentioned, you can skip this step if you have pre-treated shrimp, because brining it will make it overly-salty.
Place a 12-inch skillet over the stovetop and in that, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over high heat until it simmers. To that, add the shrimp shells and let them cook for 2-4 minutes or until they turn spotty-brown. As it cooks, remember to stir them frequently so that they’re evenly-browned. Remove the skillet from heat then carefully add thyme sprigs and dry white wine.
Let the mixture rest a little while so that the bubbling subsides, after which you transfer the skillet back to heat and let it simmer gently for 5 minutes. You also have to stir occasionally so that the flavor is evenly-distributed in the liquid. Strain the mixture into a large bowl, discard the shells and retain the liquid which should be around 2/3 cup. Quickly clean the emptied skillet with dry paper towels.
Combine cornstarch and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside. On the cleaned skillet, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil and to that add pepper flakes, garlic and pepper. Heat this mixture over medium-low heat as you stir occasionally for 3-5 minutes. At this point, you should have fragrant garlic which is slightly browned on the edges. To this, add the retained wine liquid and increase the heat to high then bring it to simmer.
Once it simmers, reduce the heat to medium then add shrimp, cover and let it cook for 5-7 minutes or until they turn opaque. As highlighted previously, remember to reduce this cooking time by two minutes if you’re using smaller shrimp. Remove the skillet from heat and transfer the shrimp to a separate bowl using a slotted spoon. This is to prevent it from overcooking as you proceed to the next step.
Return the skillet to medium heat then add the cornstarch-lemon juice mixture you had set aside and cook for 1 minute or until the mixture thickens. Remove this from heat and in that thoroughly whisk butter and parsley. Once combined, return the shrimp together with any strained liquid gathered from the bowl you placed them in. Toss so that everything is fully combined in the mixture then serve as desired with the lemon wedges passed separately.
How to make the best Shrimp Scampi: Key tips
To make the process even easier for you, here are some of the key things that you have to pay attention to when making shrimp scampi:
- Get the right shrimp
There’s always a shrimp to go with any dish and of course budget, but then, don’t just go for anything. If you need full flavor, go for wild-caught shrimp which often tastes better than the farm raised options, and the good thing is that they’re way affordable than the latter. Apart from the nature, another thing to consider is the size which is often indicated on the package. Something to clarify is that the higher the number of pounds, the smaller the shrimp, and so first consider what your recipe calls for.
This means that if it requires you to have the shrimp chopped, the smaller sizes will help rescue your pocket, than spending those extra dollars on bigger sizes which are only best when grilling is required. Finally, pay attention to how fresh the produce is, which means quality is key. Therefore, if you can get in touch with a reliable source that gets their produce off the boat, count yourself lucky. Otherwise, you can also watch out for those that are frozen as soon as they’re caught.
- Don’t overcook.
I can’t emphasize this hard enough because it’s still a challenge to most cooks. This is one of those dishes that only require a few minutes to get overcooked, meaning that if you’re not keen you’ll realize that it will be no longer the raw shrimp you dipped in the brine, but some tough, dry and overcooked dish.
Apart from the timing, one way to know when the shrimp is ready is by monitoring the color change which happens at the tail. So the moment it changes from the former translucent look to opaque, it’s time to get it off the heat. In addition to that, you can also identify this by the shape, whereby if they form a C-shape, then they’re already cooked.
- Devein properly
Forget about the work load, this step is usually one of the most unpleasant exercise in the preparation process, especially if the batch you’re dealing with is quite bigger. You have to see to it that those black veins are discarded, something you can do with a sharp knife or deveining shears. Avoid using anything blunt because with that you can easily mess up the delicate flesh, which is where all the flavor lies. All in all, you can avoid all these work by buying pre-deveined shrimp.
- Keep the shells
We have recipes that actually require one to leave the shells on, but for saucy options like the one for America’s Test Kitchen you can still de-shell and set the shells aside. So before tossing them always, remember it’s these and the head which often carry the flavor, and that’s why in this recipe the shells were used to add flavor to the wine liquid. It’s only after straining the mixture that you can discard them.
As we have seen, making shrimp scampi shouldn’t be a challenge anymore, especially with the America’s Test Kitchen Shrimp Scampi recipe at hand. The good thing is that this seafood is versatile, but as you try out new things, ensure that you retain the needed mild and meaty flavor. This is actually achievable if you pay attention to the aforementioned cooking tips which will come in handy at any given time.