Monday, June 11, 2012

Shrimp Scampi

Every now and again, I'll hit a road block when meal planning. The severity of the block is usually in direct proportion to the number of factors I'm juggling in my mind when trying to identify possible recipes (Is is relatively simple? Can I make it while the progeny are preoccupied with an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba? Will they eat it? Will Mrs. Hackknife be out of town? What needs to be used up in the farmbox/pantry/refrigerator? Do I really need to eat more beef this week? Do I own a springform pan?). You get the idea. This past week's block seemed more excruciating than most, even to the point where I may have threatened to swear off cooking indefinitely (at which time Mrs. Hackknife told me to stop stressing and just by more "pre-fab" stuff like Stouffer's, a comment that resulted in the veins nearly popping through my forehead). After wild forays flipping through numerous cookbooks (some of which, such as "Irish Pub Cooking", rarely see the light of day), I finally stumbled upon something that satisfied whatever outrageous criteria I was grappling with: shrimp scampi. The recipe in question appears in a volume of Food & Wine dishes (entitled "Reinventing the Classics") that was included in the swag we brought home from Grand Cayman. Right up at the top of the page are all of the bullets that I like to see when assessing a new recipe: "Basic-Easy!" "Fast!" "Make-Ahead!" "Staff Favorite!". Not needing further convincing, I forged ahead with plans to make my first-ever batch of shrimp scampi, something I'd hardly ever eaten outside the walls of Red Lobster.

I quickly discovered that this shrimp prep is about as idiot-proof as you can get; it's basically shrimp cooked in compound butter. I found a 1-lb bag of large (22-30), raw, tail-on frozen shrimp on sale at the local ethnic grocery store, thawed them, peeled off the shells and pulled out the poop chutes as best I could, dabbed the compound butter over them, and baked them in the oven at 450F for 10 minutes. The recipe calls for 3 lb of shrimp, so I scaled ingredient quantities down for a smaller amount, using only about 6 Tbsp. of butter, 2 garlic cloves, 1 tsp. of chopped parsley, 3/4 tsp. of lemon zest, 1/2 tsp. of lemon juice, and a dash of dried thyme. With an imitation Italian loaf from Trader Joe's (not my first choice, but it was the best I could do on short notice) and some braised celery w/pancetta, we had ourselves a fine mid-week meal (at least Hackknife Jr. and I did - Hackknifette poignantly declined to touch her shrimp) and several days of lunch leftovers. Given the high cholesterol in the shrimp and butter (not to mention the pancetta - ay, caramba), this won't be a frequent dish in the Commissaary, but I believe it'll make a tasty appearance, say, 3 times annually...

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