Countering the exceptionally ordinary scampi I've had in my day — overcooked shrimp, acerbic sauce, watery finish — my version is an attempt at balance, a much-needed virtue in all aspects of life. So too, it's a testament to the immigrant origins of this classic dish, namely that it is unclassifiably open to interpretation. As an Italian-American hybrid (i.e., American ingredients, Italian techniques), shrimp scampi is the perfect canvas for the idiosyncratic home cook.
The base ingredients are the same (garlic, lemon, wine), but a few additions from the pantry round things out a great deal. Old Bay seasons the shrimp with savory Maryland accents (paprika, celery salt, bay leaf); dried tarragon lends a subtle, anisey sweetness; chili kicks back with heat. This flavor bed gets deglazed not with the usual white wine, but with rosé, which feels more special somehow — like Summer, that elusive friend who drops by once a year with large yellow sunflowers.
1/2 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon
Freshly cracked black pepper
1/2 pound linguine (about 1/2 box)
1 clove garlic, grated
1/4 teaspoon dried chili flakes
1/4 cup rosé
1/2 lemon, zested and juiced
1 tablespoon butter
First, toss the shrimp in the olive oil, Old Bay, tarragon, and pepper. Let marinate while you put on the water — but don't salt it yet! (Unsalted water comes to a boil faster than salted water.)
Sauté the marinated shrimp in a large skillet on high heat for no more than 2 minutes on the first side and 1 minute on the second. Remove and set aside.
In the dirty pan (sans shrimp), add some more olive oil and sauté the garlic and chili for 60 seconds before splashing in the rosé and lemon zest plus juice. Bubble this away until reduced by about half. Off the heat, add the pat of butter and stir around until you're left with a velvety sauce.
Meanwhile, cook the linguine in the pot of boiling water according to package instructions. Toss the hot pasta in the prepared sauce. When ready to serve, top everything with a bountiful supply of shrimp and garnish with a crack of fresh pepper.