For as long as I can remember, my mother has served Shrimp Scampi as a part of our Christmas Eve dinner. The platter of tender, broiled shrimp, bathed in a buttery, lemon-garlic sauce (alongside a smorgasbord of other Italian seafood specialities, including my favorite Lobster Tails over Linguini, swoon!) is never long for the table. Since we eat it on Christmas Eve, Shrimp Scampi has always been a winter dish for me, though there’s nothing inherently cold-weather about it. As a fan of grilled shrimp in general, and someone who’s holding onto summer for dear life, I decided to try adapting my mother’s recipe for the grill a few weeks ago. We absolutely loved the variation. The lightly-charred shells gave way to luscious, marinated shrimp, which we peeled after grilling and dipped one at a time in warm, scallion-studded Lemon-Garlic Butter. A light sprinkling of red pepper flakes gave the dish a subtle “pop” of heat to complement the grilled flavor. I’m getting hungry all over again writing about it!
My mother adapted her Scampi from both her family’s recipe and one she found in the Time-Life Foods of the World cookbooks (a fantastic series of which I’m very fortunate to own a complete set, thanks Mom!). This Grilled Shrimp Scampi doesn’t require much more effort than the original. Shrimp cook fast (as in only 2-3 minutes per side), especially on the grill. The only potential downfall to any shrimp recipe is that they can become tough and rubbery when overcooked. To avoid this, I find two elements essential: grilling the shrimp shell-on, and threading them onto skewers for quick and easy flipping. Deveined, shell-on shrimp still pick up great flavor via the marinade and the char of the grill, but the extra layer between the meat and the grates allows the meat to remain amazingly tender.
My friends and I enjoyed Grilled Shrimp Scampi in a rustic presentation as a heavy appetizer, peeling our own shrimp at the table. A little messy, but part of the fun. Break out the moist towelettes and dig in, I say! For a more sophisticated, entrée-style presentation, you could certainly peel the shrimp for your guests after they’re grilled, serving them over a bed of rice or pasta, drizzled with the Lemon-Garlic Butter. You can’t go wrong either way (especially with a slice of crusty artisan bread on the side to catch any butter drippings that might occur)!
Grilled Shrimp Scampi pairs well with a chilled bottle of dry Pinot Grigio to best complement the garlic and the richness of the butter sauce. It would be a great addition to any Labor Day celebration this weekend, for something a little bit different from the usual picnic fare. However you spend this weekend—savoring a dip in the ocean, lounging on the beach, or lighting up the grill for one final gathering of Summer 2015—I wish you and yours a safe and relaxing holiday!
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