This is not a recipe for shrimp scampi.
I know, everyone loves scampi. That garlicky, buttery, winy sauce, so easy to pour over plump, pink shrimp, whether eaten with pasta or mopped up with a piece of crusty bread. Then there’s the heavenly aroma. Is there anything more seductive than garlic sizzling in a pan of butter and wine?
In fact, scampi sauce is so good on its own that you don’t even need the shrimp. Pour it on chicken, swab it over summer squash, drizzle it on a pair of old galoshes, it will all taste great. Because that sauce is stealing the spotlight from anything you pair with it.
Turns out it’s garlic’s fault. Leave out the garlic and our formerly shrimp scampi becomes all about the shrimp. Compensate with a pinch of cracked coriander seeds to add a complex, earthy note, and what was once pungent and assertive becomes mild and delicate. The briny succulence of sweet shrimp can shine through at last.
So this recipe, very much like scampi, contains shrimp, butter, wine and lemon — but no garlic. (“Are you feeling OK?” my husband asked.)
I also skip the pasta to keep things simple, and serve the shrimp in bowls surrounded by some of their tangy poaching liquid, then top them off with a dollop of dill-speckled mayonnaise. The mayonnaise rounds out the wine and lemon, adding richness to the shrimp and body to the broth.
Without any of the garlic to chop, the whole thing comes together even more quickly than scampi, and it’s lighter and sweeter, too.
As with any dish starring shrimp, try to seek out wild rather than farmed crustaceans if possible, or look for farms that have been certified by the Global Seafood Alliance, which ensures responsible and sustainable farming practices.
Once you’ve found great shrimp, it’s essential not to overcook them. Watch them closely as they turn from translucently bluish (or brownish, or purplish, depending on the variety) to opaque and pink-striped. Their bodies should firm up in the poaching liquid, but remain long and vaguely ear-shaped, without curling up into tight rounds — a definite sign of overcooking.
You can serve this dish as an appetizer, as is or as a main course rounded out with some bread to catch the nuanced, buttery sauce. Though shrimp is now center stage, this subtly delectable sauce deserves its own star turn.