Taking shrimp scampi from the ’90s wasteland to the 21st century with Alton Brown.

Shrimp scampi via Alton Brown.

Few dishes scream “I was big in the nineties!” like shrimp scampi, maybe because even writing words takes me back to a table at a Red Lobster with a plate of butterflied fried shrimp and shirmp scampi before me, with the latter drowning in too much butter and probably some crappy white wine. It was so ubiquitous (to the point of nauseatingly generic) that it served as symbol in the ’90s romantic comedy Only You* that a shared love of the dish was a superficial connection at best.

So color me surprised when a few weeks ago I was flipping through the remainder of my cookbooks that I had yet to use and I found myself flagging a recipe for shrimp scampi in Alton Brown’s first cookbook I’m Just Here for the Food. There was no butter involved here–just a couple of tablespoons of olive oil–and not even a mention of wine. Instead, the idea is that you broil the shrimp with the garlic and some seasoning (salt, pepper, and some Old Bay) for a couple of minutes, and then stir in some lemon juice, panko breadcrumbs, and parsley, and put it back in the broiler to let the shrimp cook through and the breadcrumbs attain a lovely golden color. Intrigued, I put it on the list of things to make for dinner this past week.

The last week of summer gave us a blast of heat and humidity for much of it, and so at first I was a little concerned that Michael would object to the broiler being turned on, but thankfully this recipe was as fast as promised. While it needed a little time to get going, I don’t think it was on for anything longer than ten minutes. While I would probably avoid making this during an extreme heatwave in the height of July, the ingredients are so seasonal-agnostic that I intend to put this on the menu whenever I’m feeling the need for something light, fast, but surprisingly substantial. In fact, this might go on my list of party-friendly recipes if I find myself needing another dish so long as I keep a bag of shrimp in our freezer, ready to go.

If anything, it’s a strong argument in favor of revisiting old classics and making them new again, so who knows–maybe next you’ll see me sing the praises of barbecue chicken pizza.

Shrimp Scampi
lightly adapted from I’m Just Here for the Food
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as an appetizer

  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Old Bay
  • 4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

Turn on your broiler to high and place a rack about 5 inches below the heat source (for my oven, that’s the second shelf). In a shallow glass baking dish, arrange the shrimp so that they don’t overlap on each other and drizzle with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and a few dashes of Old Bay and stir well to combine (while taking care to make sure the seasoned shrimp also don’t overlap). Place in the broiler for 2 minutes or until the shrimp start becoming pink, and then take out and stir in the lemon juice, breadcrumbs, and parsley and stir well to combine and coat. Place the shrimp back in the broiler and let cook until the shrimp is fully cooked and the breadcrumbs are golden, about 5-7 minutes total. Serve immediately.

*The one starring Marisa Tomei and Robert Downey, Jr. and not the one starring Helen Hunt and Andrew McCarthy. The latter one is somehow even more problematic than the former.


9 Comments Add yours

  1. Old classics are like secret weapons. I’ve been thinking of another way to be creative with shrimp, I really like the use of the breadcrumbs here. That must have been deliciously crunchy under the burst of perfectly cooked shrimp mmmmmm!!

    1. elizabeth says:

      They get really well-seasoned between the Old Bay and the salt and pepper, so it makes the dish quite flavorful. The lemon juice gives it a nice tartness too!

      1. That’s good to know.
        I found another great use of breadcrumbs recently; to toss them in with a salad. It’s unnecessary carbs, I know, but it gives things a delightful crunch!

        1. elizabeth says:

          That sounds pretty good, and a better alternative to croutons!

  2. Becky Ellis says:

    Thank you for sharing this recipe…looks scrumptious!

  3. Kurian says:

    Looking really yummy

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