I’m an ordinary human that can only remember and pronounce ordinary names. Confused, huh? Well, it’s kind of funny, but I am bad with most fancy foods that sound even remotely complicated. I either don’t remember them or tend to mispronounce. That’s precisely what happened when I first heard of shrimp and scallop scampi, after I moved to the US. I didn’t dare ask that friend what this dish was made up of apart from the shrimps. I thought it’d be too stupid of me. That time, it seemed to be some sort of those far fetched foods you only get to see and taste in Michelin star restaurants.
Whatever on earth was scallops and scampi? Nonetheless, it never occurred to me or may be the name slipped my mind when I got home — and that one google search to look for the meaning never happened. Then once, I shyly ordered and ate it at Red Lobster, followed by many more times during eventual visits. I had always known about clams and bivalves — have seen them been widely sold and consumed in places I’ve lived…across Bengal and in the southern Konkan belt of India. But what I didn’t realize was that scallops was the meat pulled out of the mollusk shells and consumed as seafood…And “scampi” was the white sauce they were cooked in. Buttery, light, comforting and mildly seasoned…what was there not to love? To be honest, I never tasted scallops while in India. I rather frowned at their mere mention. Who would not pick a fish or shrimp from a seafood menu and choose scallops? I mean “Menu te mach, chingri chede shamukh khabo?“, I would think. For a Bangali, the fact that this dish had shrimps and lots of butter was more than a reason to celebrate.
I also had scampi at the Rainforest Cafe. They serve it as part of an elaborate seafood platter. Out of their 3 locations on the East Coast, I’ve been lucky to have visited 2. Because my kids love the jungle ambiance and the animatronic animals so much, we ate here quite a few times. During one such visit, I’d let our waitress know how much we adored the seafood sauce she had served us. She said it was the scampi sauce. And finally all that accumulated curiosity within me got to speak up and ask “It’s so good. What is it made up of?” She said she’ll be back in a minute and excused herself. And just as I started wondering how foolishly excited I got and whether I should’ve asked what I did, this girl stood right in front of me, smiling. I went in to check with our chef for you. Wanted to make sure the information I give out to you is 100% correct”, she explained. “The sauce we make has garlic, butter and cheddar”, she continued. I was touched with her humility, and of course happy that I finally knew what the sauce was composed of. It’s not everyday that you come across people who’d go out of their way to do you a favor. I was touched, humbled and very thankful.
Nonetheless, the next week was spent in looking for scallops. Learnt the hard way that best quality scallops are the tinier ones, called bay scallops. (Sea scallops are larger, chewier and have a rather strong seafood smell.) Moreover, frozen bay scallops do very well in this recipe. I also used frozen deshelled baby/salad shrimps in this recipe for three reasons. One, because I have a severe contact allergy to shrimp-shells. So technically, I can’t touch their raw shells, but can eat shrimps when cooked. Frozen shrimps come pre-cleaned. Two, because the frozen baby shrimps are deshelled and do not have the tails on. And because I used the scampi with angel hair pasta, it’s most comforting to be able to enjoy eating without having to worry about pulling out the tail-shells. And three, because the small baby shrimp size beautifully compliments the size of bay scallops. However, medium to large shrimps could also be used here, if you so prefer.
A little inquisitive food-chat with my Italian neighbor and friend, followed by the much awaited google search on scampi resulted in this piece of info: Scampi in Italian means “tiny, lobster-like crustaceans”, and in the US, it refers to shrimps cooked in light garlicky butter sauce. This was introduced by the immigrant workers from Italy in late 1800’s. Adapted from the North Italian dish Gamberoni All’Aglio, the famous shrimp scampi was born and is part of the classic Italian-American cuisine today.
You know how I feel about complicated foods? Well, though remotely scampi did seem to me fancy the first time, the recipe is nothing more than a quick do. The making is easy, quick, no-sweat, stress and fuss-free. And yet, this one gives you a comforting, full of flavor one-dish meal. Scallops beautifully pairs up with the shrimps in this scampi sauce and provides a great texture, adds to the flavor and makes it more wholesome. The best part? Apart from shredded chives, there’s absolutely no chopping and cutting! Isn’t that a big bliss?
Here’s how I make the shrimp and scallop scampi. Mine is a non-alcoholic version (some like drizzling in a little white wine) and addition of cheddar fills in much more than the flavor gap, if you will. The cheddar provides a unique edgy taste and a smoothness to the buttery sauce. I like my scampi this way. We love it with the angel hair pasta. However, feel free to eat the scampi as a side with your favorite rice and sea food spread, or as a rich seafood sauce over some garden fresh salad .
Try this recipe soon. Treat yourself and impress someone you’d like to!
- 12 oz or 340 gm frozen salad/baby Shrimps (pre-cleaned and deshelled)
- 10.6 oz or 300 gms frozen Bay Scallops
- 8 tbsp Butter
- 0.5 oz or 15 gm shredded fresh chives
- 0.5 tbsp garlic paste
- 0.5 tbsp red chilly flakes
- 1 tbsp hot sriracha sauce
- 2 oz or 25 gm shredded Sharp cheddar cheese
- One 16 oz or 500 gm pack of Angel Hair pasta
- Salt to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
- 1 fl.oz or 2 tbsp light olive oil
- Cook the pasta per package instructions till al dente.
- Drain pasta in a colander and run lots of cold water, so they don’t stick together. Add olive oil. Mix to coat the pasta. Keep aside.
- Gently melt the butter in a wok over medium heat, so they don’t burn. Throw in the shrimps, scallops, garlic paste and chilly flakes. Add some salt.
- Stir fry over high heat for about 5 minutes or till done, then take off from stove top.
- Add sriracha sauce, chives and shredded sharp cheddar. Let the cheese melt in. Give a quick mix.
- Serve pasta in bowls and top with the shrimp and scallop scampi. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Squeeze in some fresh lime juice if you like.
Substitutes and Variations:
Increase or decrease the heat to your preference, by adjusting the amounts of red chilli flakes, fresh ground pepper and hot sriracha sauce. You may use the green stalks of spring onions, if you cannot source chives. You may also use medium to large shrimps in this recipe. Alternatively, you may use fresh shrimps and scallops from the market and clean them before use. If you particularly aren’t fond of scallops, skip them and use double the amount of shrimps prescribed in the recipe instead. We love it with the angel hair pasta. You may use your favorite pasta, or feel free to eat the scampi as a side with your favorite rice and sea food spread, or as a rich seafood sauce over some garden fresh salad. Use an additional 2 tbsp of butter or olive oil in the recipe, to coat the pasta better or if you like it slightly more buttery.