Food bloggers and their readers tend to be a supportive, upbeat, crowd (“Kale! Wow! Double thumbs-up!”). We don’t get many
complaints, helpful suggestions for improving the site, but every few months this plea arrives: “Can’t you do something so we don’t have to cut and paste your recipes?” Never let it be said The Garum Factory turns a deaf ear to the cries of its readers. If people feel that cutting-and-pasting is akin to chiseling ankylosaurus bones out of sedimentary river bottom then, please, allow us to take on some of the heavy lifting. Congratulations, squeaky wheels, today is your day. You have spoons in your hands and feet in your shoes and starting this week you can print any recipe you choose.* Just click on the PRINT command, located in the upper right corner of the recipe itself. Pretty cool, right? We anticipate mobs of readers, freshly inked recipes waving aloft, encircling local fishmongers in search of ingredients for this week’s toothsome offering, Shrimp Scampi with Orange Bitters.
In the U.S., “shrimp scampi” refers to a dish of large shrimp prepared with garlic, butter and white wine, sometimes with pasta; sometimes with breadcrumbs. In Britain and continental Europe (yes, including Italy), scampi refers to langoustines, crustaceans similar to crayfish or miniature lobsters, also called Dublin Bay Prawns or Norwegian lobsters. For residents of Britain, scampi means breaded and fried langoustines. Period. But in Italy, scampi is less a dish than an ingredient, which may be prepared in a way similar to American shrimp scampi, or any of the others ways–poached, chilled, roasted, in soup, etc.–that Italians handle seafood.
Jody deserves the credit for descrying the orange-bitters-shaped hole in shrimp scampi’s soul. The bitters add a floral note to the shrimp, like orange water, that subtly shifts the flavor profile eastward. As taste combinations go, bitters are a great way of enlivening a shrimp dish that is often tired in its execution, and overly familiar when it’s not. Should shrimp scampi have bitters? In a 2007 New York Times article by Melissa Clark, esteemed Italian cookbook author and restaurateur Lidia Bastianich asserts that shrimp scampi is an American invention, the product of immigrants adapting Italian cooking technique to American ingredients. In other words, when it comes to shrimp scampi there are no regional sensibilities to offend, no scampi shibboleths to shatter. Shrimp scampi is as American as apple pie, and like any other American, is free to reinvent itself. If bitters are the elixir of the metamorphosis, why not? Enjoy.
*With apologies to Dr. Seuss. I’ll be working my way back through previous posts, slowly, to make printing possible. I owe a large bowl of deep-fried olives to Michelle, Queen of Gourmandistan, for directing me me to the Recipe Shortcode instructions.
Shrimp Scampi with Orange Bitters
Read Jody’s notes before making the recipe. Making a quick shrimp stock, Step 2, is optional. Jody explains what to do if you skip it in her notes.
RECIPE UPDATE: Somehow, a previous version of this recipe made it into the final post, which we published, on Friday, January 31st. The recipe should only have 6 tablespoons of butter (and 2 of them are optional), not 8, as it first appeared.
- 16 large shell-on shrimp with heads if you can get them (about 1 pound; as you can see from the photos, we couldn’t find any with heads still on)
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 cup white wine
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- ¼ cup finely chopped garlic
- ¼ teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon crushed fennel seeds
- 1 pound dried spaghetti
- 1 teaspoon garum or Asian fish sauce
- 1 teaspoon orange angostura bitters
- ½ cup chopped parsley
- Juice of 1 lemon
- Remove the head and peel and devein the shrimp. Refrigerate the shrimp.
- Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the shrimp shells and heads and sear until pink. Add the wine with ½ cup water. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 20 minutes. Strain.
- Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.
- Heat the remaining oil with the garlic over medium heat. Cook 30 seconds. Add 4 tablespoons butter, the hot red pepper flakes and fennel seed and cook 1 minute or until the garlic is tender. Remove from the heat.
- This is the tricky timing part. When the water is boiling, add the spaghetti and cook, stirring, until the water returns to a boil. Cook until al dente, about 8-9 minutes.
- While the pasta is cooking, return the pan with the butter to a medium heat. When it is hot, add the shrimp, season with salt and cook on each side until pink. Transfer the shrimp to a plate. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half. Just before the pasta is done, return the shrimp to the pan with the garum and the bitters and add the parsley. Toss well. Taste. Add more garum and bitters to taste.
- Scoop the pasta out of the water and toss with the shrimp and lemon juice, adding remaining butter, if desired, and pasta water to keep it moist.
- Serve immediately in warm pasta bowls.
This is a quintessential pasta and seafood recipe… garlic, butter, parsley, white wine, lemon + seafood. I like using shrimp with shells, and heads if possible. The heads allow you to assess the freshness of the shrimp (intact? shiny? beaten up?) and along with the shells make a great stock. Step 2 – making shrimp stock is a chef-y step. I can’t bear wasting anything. I think the stock adds a little extra shrimp flavor to the finished dish, but you can skip it without any major loss. If you do skip it, simply add all of oil with the garlic in step 4, before melting the butter; add the wine in step 6, without any extra water.
Many chefs like to finish this dish with a big wallop of butter at the end. I’ve reduced the size of the wallop, and made it optional–it’s something I only do as an occasional indulgence and I spend a lot of time on a bike. You can make a perfectly delicious dish while omitting it.
Why orange bitters? The idea came to me after returning from North Carolina where our friend Lex made us perfect Manhattans. I had bitters on the brain. “Why not try orange bitters in this dish to shake things up.” I asked myself. “Shellfish love oranges.” And it worked. Not just worked–it’s fantastic. Thank you Lex. xox
Not to take away from the always wonderful post but is the Lex you speak of, Lex Alexander and his lovely wife Anne?
Yes. Both great people. Ken
Poor kale, the victim of food fads. Maybe in a decade, we’ll get “kale green smoothies, rediscovered & reinvented”.
I’ll swap a bit of almond plum tart for this scampi?
Saucygander… where did the reference to kale come from, besides the brief initial salvo? Yes, KALE is having the 15 minutes of fame of late, agreed. Soon, Okra! Stinging Nettles are in the wings, thank you Chef Jamie Oliver.
David, all I can say is that sometimes I am an idiosyncratic reader. And Ken’s brief line about kale somehow caught my attention at 1am in the morning (when I was reading the post).
Deal. But don’t feel too sorry for kale. I just returned from a 2-day lighting workshop, it’s 10 pm and I’m hungry – kale salad with anchovy dressing, linguini with tomato sauce.
Big fan of bitters… what? Me BITTER? Peychauds, Angostura, Fee Brothers assortment of old fashioned aromatic, orange, yada, yada. More widely available now than even ten years back. I used to have to ask our event managers working in New Orleans to buy Peychauds and ship them up here. Have not used them in this way, so will give it a dash. Thanks for the inspiration. Printing your recipes has not been a problem of late, but every easing of the process helps. Thank you!
I’m afraid that I’m getting on the bitters bandwagon VERY late in the game, but no matter. I think you’ll enjoy the shrimp.
Lovely recipe and pix, as always. Special thanks too for the code for printing recipes – I’ll be making use of that.
Hi, Linda–the RECIPE shortcode is great. The only drawback, thus far, is that I’d like to figure out how to insert some other formatting commands, like changing the background color of the actual recipe, so if people want to skip past the intro (horrors!) and go straight to the recipe there’s a visual cue to help them do that. But hey, a step up from the cut-and-paste of yore. Enjoy. Ken
I’m making Shrimp Scampi on Saturday, I just love how easy and tasty it is. I like your twist with the orange bitters. Have a good weekend!
Great! I’m writing this on Saturday night, so I’m sure everybody was wowed by what a great cook you are. :-) Ken
Ha, well, it was just me and my husband and he’s required to think that!
Wow great history of scampi. Beautiful as always. What a cool feature. I’ll have to try it sometime. I’m not customized so not sure if the theme will let me. What a great idea of Jodi’s to add the bitters. That could only add flavor, especially since seafood works well with floral and citrus. It’s little details like that that elevate a dish from good to great! And i love love love the garlic.
Hi, Amanda–Thanks for the kind words. I’m not enough of a WP guru (in fact, I’m not a WP guru at all) so I’m afraid I can’t help you. One thing you might try is putting your ediitng screen in “TEXT” vs. “VISUAL” (the tabs are at the top of the editing screen space. Paste the first part of the shortcode in at the beginning of your recipe. The paste the end of the shortcode at the end of your recipe. Save everything, then PREVIEW. You might suprise yourself. :-) Ken
Hey Jodi and Ken, Do you have any idea of how many MG of sodium would be in this recipe. It really sounds fabulous! Marcia B.
I’m sorry, Marcia, we don’t. Obviously there’s the amount of salt you add, to taste, plus the garum/fish sauce, which I’m sure you could look up. Good luck. Ken
You always have to go one better than the rest of us. Making the rest of us look soooo bad. Print button indeed. Mind you, I haven’t had any requests for a printable recipe. That tells me more than I want to know.
Glorious looking prawns/shrimp/Norwegian lobster. Excellent recipe. Top class photos, as ever.
I’m only motivated by the thought of keeping you awake at night, Conor, grinding your teeth, plagued by the question, “How, oh how, can I get a print command on MY blog.” I think you’re the kind of cook who’ll like the bitters with the shrimp. You may have to adjust the dosage up or down depending on the brand. Ken
Thank you for the link. I saw similar scampi when visiting Puglia. Really lovely.
Jody and Ken – There are few things better than beautiful ingredients and a perfectly executed, classical preparation of a dish. Your own added flair (fish sauce and orange bitters) makes this recipe quite special. Honestly, I had no idea that “Italian” shrimp scampi is actually an American invention; one learns something new everydayI will PRINT your recipe once, maybe twice, so that your hard work is not in vain. Now the Garum Factory is perfect! ;-) Best wishes – Shanna
Thank you, Shanna. We’d like to hear your response to adding bitters, if you think of it. Print away… Ken
Hi, Ken, Honestly, I have never heard of any savory dinner recipe that incorporates orange angostura bitters. After some reading, it seems that it is often incorporated into seafood dishes, remoulades and even chocolate. I imagine that the depth of flavor from sun-dried, Trinidadian oranges – and earthy licorice notes – are lovely with restrained use. I am certainly receiving a great culinary education here. ;-)
Conor said it well…glorious and beautiful. Adding the print button certainly makes sense for your blog! Speaking for myself I never cut and paste your recipes…I love to “scroll” up and down, just to be able to see your photographs while following the recipe. And I certainly have used your recipes more than once! :) Also…I always love to read Jody’s notes. Thank you for blogging! :)
“…up and down just to be able to see your photographs…” Clearly you’re a superior reader. :-) Thank you for the appreciative comments. We really hope people are making the food, and perhaps expanding their horizons in the process. Very gratifying to read. Ken
With the thanks of a grateful nation. Can’t wait to print and cook. Though I’m wishing some of this would magically appear right now to ease the cares of the week and usher in Superbowl weekend (a charged time here in Seattle).
Good luck on Sunday. Charged – I have no doubt. Save this for a time when you can notice what you’re eating, and not staring at the screen. Ken
I guess the Queen had better get to work inserting that “print” code into her own blog… In the meantime, however, I’m marveling that you can make my absolute most hated of all cooking tasks, cleaning shrimp, look pretty! (And the recipe sounds great, too.)
Thank you again, Michelle. Very easy. If you have any difficulty, email me. Wait??!! You didn’t think cleaning shrimp was pretty? Ken
I found shrimp with heads in tact at the H Mart (Asian market) in Burlington, fabulous seafood department. This recipe was a hit with visiting Italian friends yesterday, paired with a Falanghina (Vesevo). The flavors were so well married we couldn’t really identify the effect of the bitters. I wish I could taste side by side with and without and will have to do this again so we can try to better discern what’s happening. Anyway, you have never failed us!
Thanks, Henry. I’ve wanted to visit the H Mart in Burlington for a year and something subverts me at the last minute every time. Great combo with the Falaghina, an underappreciated wine. Regarding the bitters, Jody was very cautious in the recipe. There’s a reason, after all, that they’re called “bitters.” There are a couple of factors here that need to be taken into consideration – the brand of your bitters, and the strength of your garlic. You have to add enough bitters for the flavor to come through, but not so much that it overwhelms the dish. The strength of your garlic, and the brand of bitters will both have an effect. I’d say start out with the recipe quantity, and keep adding — in half-teaspoons! – until you can taste the effect. Let me know how it goes. Ken
This was out of this world. As always, I wished I had company to share it with but will soon. I went chef-y with only the shells, no head-ons around here. No orange bitters either so went with grapefruit. I should have used more in prep so sprinkled a bit on before serving. The richness makes it a special occasion recipe and the flavors will hold up to any special event! Thanks as always…
Wow! Grapefruit bitters – that sounds incredible. Okay, we accept your invitation to lunch in the Caribbean. :-) Ken
Such a great idea making the shrimp stock with the shells, I bet it makes all the difference.
Thanks, Steve. The first time I saw Jody do this–and she does it with fish parts as well–I said, “You’re kidding me, right?” But I’m a convert now, especially since in all likelihood you’re already standing by the stove, it involves minimal effort, and if you’re going to go to the trouble of shelling your own shrimp, why not try to squeeze every drop of flavor you can out of them? Ken
Delicious! Paired with a Northern Italian Sauvignon Blanc. Really excellent meal. Thanks for highlighting it Ken. – J & C
Great! You know, you guys are two people I can think most likely at any given moment to have both a Northern Italian Sauvignon Blanc and a bottle of orange bitters close at hand. Thanks. Ken
As always, this looks great, Ken and Jody. Now I’m off to investigate how to shortcode my way to more accessible recipes on my blog. Thanks!
Thanks. The short code is easy–people will be printing your stuff by next week. :-) Ken
Love the idea – and fact – of orange bitters. Inventive and yet now strangely obvious, which is the experience I often have reading your blog posts. Wonder if Seville oranges could work in a similar sort of way…or is this a bit (meme) “Duh!”. Sophie
Hi, Sophie–Seville oranges are an interesting idea. My experience with Seville oranges and savory food is confined to duck, where a reduction of S.O. juice was added to reduced duck stock to make a sauce. There was no mistaking the taste in the finished dish (I believe there’s a famous Persian dish that uses this combination and the one time I ate it – cooked by a Persian – it was strikingly *gastrique,* – I don’t know the English word – sour, but sharp). I don’t know what would happen if you just added a few tablespoons to the sauce with the scampi. Are S.O.’s fragrant? Maybe you could try it and tell me? We don’t see Seville oranges very often so I haven’t had much opportunity to work with them. I took your “obvious” in the way you intended – :-) – “oh, yeah, makes sense, why hasn’t someone suggested that before…” Ken
Obvious, I should add as in natural – ‘Of course! why didn’t I think of that?’ etc.
Besides a delicious recipe I just wanted to say thanks for sharing the link for the print recipe! For some reason I thought it was only for those that bought their domain. Anyway, I’ve just figured how to do it. And it’s so simple! Even I understood it. :) Only another 100 + posts to go…I’m thinking the novelty may wear off!
I think that code is going to make life easier for a lot of us who like to cook each other’s food. Have fun! :-) Ken
Lovely! I’ve ordered this dish out but never made it myself at home… you make it look very worth it. These photos just made me soooo hungry.