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Scampi: The Delicious Mystery

scampiDepending on which part of the world you are in, you will get different answers to the often asked question, “What’s in scampi?”  This is intriguing because scampi is universally loved as a dish, and yet people prepare it with diverse main ingredients.  Moreover, most of the consumers who contribute to this £50 million business probably eat something other than what they think they are eating when they eat scampi.

What’s inside your scampi?

The Culinary Dictionary defines scampi as “The Italian name for the tail portion of any of several varieties of miniature lobsters. In the U.S., the term refers to large shrimp that are split and brushed in a garlic oil or butter, then broiled. “Scampo” is the singular form.” It adds that scampi is “Another word for langoustine, or shrimp. This word is used in the U.S. as a description of shrimp broiled with butter, lemon, and garlic.”

Ideally, this dish should contain bits of Nephrops norvegicus, better known as Norway lobster, Dublin prawn, or langoustine. In many places, however, this dish contains shrimp. One article mentioned that pre-packed scampi may even contain pangasius catfish mixed with langoustine. Regardless of what is really contained, this dish is extremely popular, and its popularity may owe much of this to the way it is prepared.

The Different Faces of Scampi

One of the charms of the dish called scampi is that it has countless versions. In Baked Shrimp Scampi, Food Network celebrity chef Ina Garten presents an extremely simple version of this global favorite. For her recipe, she uses 2 pounds of large shrimp (about 25 to 30 pieces total), olive oil, white wine, unsalted butter, shallots, garlic, rosemary, lemon and lemon zest, pepper flakes, and Japanese bread crumbs. The shrimps are baked with a crust made from the other ingredients.

In BBC, James Martin has his own version of scampi, langoustine scampi with lemon mayo. The langoustine is deep fried with a batter made with vodka, self-rising flour, and corn flour. It is dipped in a made-from-scratch mayonnaise mixed from 2 egg yolks, white wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, grapeseed oil, lemon juice, and sea salt.

In Emeril’s Shrimp Scampi, Emeril Lagasse adds his own spice mixture, Emeril’s Original Essence, to 1 ½ pounds of large shrimp. He also uses capers, red pepper flakes, linguini, and Parmesan cheese. He quickly sautées the shrimp with the other ingredients and adds a pound of cooked linguini for a satisfying pasta meal.

Pairing Scampi

Shrimp scampi goes well with a citrusy Pinot Giorgio, especially when the dish itself has just a delicate touch of lemon zest. However, some wine experts feel that it would be better to pair scampi with wine that will complement rather than mirror the flavors of the dish. For this reason, Sauvignon Blanc, Sancerre, or Muscadet might be a more appropriate choice.

Although white wines are the usual accompaniment for seafood, there are times when a chianti or a merlot might be just the wine for scampi. This is particularly true when the scampi packs considerable heat or when it is strongly flavored with garlic. If your dish is battered and deep fried, there is no stopping you from pairing it with beer. Scampi, after all, can be prepared in countless delightful ways, and this makes it possible for you to enjoy it with a wide selection of drinks.

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