2018-02-10 / Food

Shrimp Scampi, remastered

Food Columnist

It’s a really good thing I’m not purely Italian, otherwise my nonna might turn over in her grave at the thought of altering the classic shrimp scampi. And if any of you might turn your nose at the thought, avert your eyes.

The plain fact is that, while shrimp scampi is never bad, it’s usually just pretty decent — a mix of butter, wine, lemon and herbs coating delicately-cooked wheels of shrimp served over pasta or with some crusty bread.

The story’s pretty much always the same, so turn a new page, with my seared shrimp scampi with sumac risotto.

Here I take all the elements of the classic dish and turn up the volume. First, the shrimp are seared on one side and flambeed in brandy, resulting in a delicious, charred exterior with a tender, imbibed bite.

To top it off — or, rather, to pile underneath — I serve the shrimp with a hearty sumac and mushroom risotto. If you haven’t used sumac before, I encourage you to. Made from ground berries of the same name, sumac has a pleasant fruitiness and subtle earthiness that really underscores the notes of the brandy.

Rounding out the dish is the traditional garlic, butter and wine sauce, the delicious nectar upon which all scampi dishes are based.

My take may not be 100 percent conventional, but it is oh, so good.

Side note: Valentine’s Day is coming up, and this is a perfect not-too-heavy meal to make for that someone special or, if you’re single, yourself.

Seared shrimp scampi with sumac risotto
Serves: 4
Start-to-finish: 40 minutes
For the risotto:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ½ cup finely-chopped mushrooms
1 ½ tablespoons sumac
1 teaspoon minced sage (if using dried, use ½ teaspoon)
½ cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay
1 cup arborio rice
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, more to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
3 cups chicken, fish or vegetable stock, more as needed
½ cup parmesan
For the shrimp:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ pounds large shrimp, cleaned with the tails left on
4 tablespoons butter
1 ounce brandy
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ teaspoon chile flakes
½ cup dry white wine, such as chardonnay
¼ cup chicken, fish or vegetable stock
¼ cup basil, roughly chopped, more for garnish
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste

Prepare the risotto. In a large, wide skillet set over medium-high heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add the shallot and a pinch of salt and saute, three to four minutes, until translucent.

Add the mushrooms and cook about 10 minutes until mushrooms have lost all their water and begun to brown. Add the garlic, sumac and sage and cook one minute. Add the rice to the pan and stir, cooking an additional minute, then add the wine to the pan and let the rice absorb it.

Add stock, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring rice constantly letting stock be fully absorbed until each addition. The risotto is done when the rice is creamy and still al dente, about 25 minutes start-to-finish. Add parmesan and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Set aside while cooking shrimp and reheat before serving if needed.

Make the scampi. Over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and add shrimp with a liberal pinch of salt.

Sear shrimp on one side before adding two tablespoons butter. Remove from heat and carefully add the brandy. If flambeing, gently dip the pan into the flame on the stove or use a long-handled lighter to ignite the pan. Allow the liquor to burn off, and quickly remove shrimp, setting them aside for later.

To the pan, add remaining butter plus garlic and chile flakes, and cook until fragrant. Add the wine to deglaze the pan, scraping up any of the fond, and reduce. Add the stock, and taste the sauce to adjust seasoning if needed. Return shrimp to the pan to finish cooking, another minute or two, and add the basil to finish.

Serve immediately over risotto, spooning pan sauce over top.

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