Welcome to Never Fail, a weekly column where we wax poetic about the recipes that never, ever let us down.
If you want me to show up to a location or perform an arduous task, casually slip in the fact there will be garlicky seafood there. I will show up.
Hey dude, want to help me move next Saturday? My new spot is a six floor walk-up without A.C. There will be linguine alle vongole. Yes. Sounds great! I’ll be there.
Hey dude, I need to give my dog it’s new medication, and it’s really a two person job. Will you come assist me in the procedure? I’m making some steamed mussels in a garlicky tomato sauce. Of course! It would be my pleasure to hold down your hundred pound Doberman while you attempt to get it to swallow pills.
Hey dude, I have to drive my Great Aunt Bertha to my Mom’s house in Ohio. The speakers in my car don’t work, but it’s a quick six hour drive. And she doesn’t really yell that much. I made some shrimp scampi for the road. Packed it all up in Tupperware. And Great Aunt Bertha is bringing some crispy bread for dipping. Will you come to keep me company? Wow. Really? When do leave? I am DOWN.
Because shrimp scampi is the real ticket, the greatest excuse to bask in the comforts of shrimp, garlic, wine, and butter. It is the simplest of meals, with the most indulgent payoff, and we have a pretty damn good recipe for it. There’s nothing in this scampi recipe that will be unfamiliar to you. All of these ingredients are very run-of-the-mill stuff that you probably have in your fridge or pantry already.
It starts with taking your shrimp and marinating them briefly in a mix of kosher salt, garlic, and oil. This step might seem like standard procedure, but it’s the secret for getting a deep garlicky flavor into those crescent-shaped crustaceans and turning up the garlic from one to eleven.
The scampi comes together quickly after that. You cook the shrimp halfway and then remove them from the pan. At that point, you cook a bunch of sliced garlic in the remaining oil, lemon juice, and a bit of wine, before adding the shrimp back into the pan and bringing the whole thing home.
This scampi starts and ends with really working garlic and fat into your shrimp, and it’s a worthwhile effort. By the end, each bite of tender shrimp is completely suffused with layer after layer of flavor. Acid from the lemon. Heat from chile flakes. Creaminess from the butter. A little bit of fruitiness from the wine. And equal parts bite and sweetness from the garlic. It’s a roster of simple flavors that turn into a beautiful symphony.
But this is really just proof that scampi doesn’t have to be dumped on top of pasta. Sure, many of the Italian-American restaurants of our time have done just that, but in my eyes, shrimp scampi does its best work when served on a big platter surrounded by warm crusty bread. Dip your bread into that sauce, and pile a few tender, flavorful shrimp on top. Eat. Again. And again. And again. Is this a single serving? Or an experience for the whole family? That’s up to you. Either way, doubling this recipe won’t hurt.
But I can’t stick around while you decide. I have to run. Great Aunt Bertha is outside in the car. And…yes, it looks like she brought the bread.