Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp

        I’ve yet to find a recipe that comes close to the Shrimp Scampi that I grew up with. It was a dish that was so resolutely garlic-y, you could smell it coming up the driveway.  Later, when I lived in Italy, I found out how off that name is.  Scampi is a shellfish, a langoustine more formally known as Nephrops Norvegicus, or Norway Lobster found in the North Atlantic and parts of the Mediterranean.  In both taste and texture it has more in common with lobster and crayfish than shrimp or prawns. And the pasta dish we loved at home didn’t contain any Nephrops Norvegicus.  It was made with jumbo shrimp, wine, and the aforementioned tons of garlic.  So what’s with the Shrimp Scampi?  It’s almost like calling a dish “Chicken Poulet.”
Nephrops Norvegicus
“Scampi" is often the menu name for shrimp in Italian-American cuisine.  The actual word for "shrimp" in Italian is gambero or gamberetto. The term “Scampi” is used as the name of a dish of shrimp served in garlic butter and dry white wine, served either with bread, or over pasta or rice. The word "scampi" is often construed as that style of preparation rather than an ingredient, with that preparation being called "shrimp scampi", and with variants such as "chicken scampi". 
Now this recipe for Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp comes from Fine Cooking.  It's one of their series of really simple and fast dinner recipes.  Its name wisely eliminates the redundancy of “Shrimp Scampi”.  However it gets very close to what I loved as a child.   It’s deeply perfumed with garlic and lemon.  Then there’s an addition that flies in the face of the Italian edict: Never add cheese to seafood of any kind. In this case, Marscapone, that luxurious Italian cream cheese is added at the end to give the sauce a creamy richness.  Somewhat bizarrely the original recipe is for three people.  I made it for two by cutting down on the number of shrimp.   I would however caution against cutting the amount of sauce down.  And this is one time when you really do need to add a little of the paste water to get your sauce to the perfect consistency.   Here is the recipe:

Recipe for Linguine with Lemon-Garlic Shrimp
Kosher salt
1/2 lb. dried thin linguine
1 lemon
1 lb. extra-large (26 to 30 per pound) shrimp, peeled and deveined
Freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbs. unsalted butter
3 medium cloves garlic, thinly sliced (1 Tbs.)
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 Tbs. thinly sliced chives 

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil over high heat. Cook the linguine in the boiling water according to package directions until al dente. Reserve about 3/4 cup of the cooking water and then drain the pasta.

Meanwhile, finely grate 1-1/4 tsp. of zest from the lemon and squeeze 2 Tbs. of juice. Toss the shrimp with 1/2 tsp. of the zest and 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper.

In a 12-inch skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat until the foam subsides. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until the garlic just begins to brown, about 1 minute. Add the shrimp and cook until just opaque, about 3 minutes. Add the wine and lemon juice, bring to a boil, and cook until slightly reduced, 1 minute.

Add the drained pasta, mascarpone, and 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss well, adding more cooking water as needed, until the pasta and shrimp are coated and the sauce looks creamy. Remove from the heat. Toss in the remaining 3/4 tsp. lemon zest and the chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.