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