Merry Christmas! This was the first year that I’ve been away from “home” for Christmas. I visited my family and friends in the Northwest earlier in the month, spending the actual Christmas holiday with Grant and his family. It was really wonderful and an important step in making The South my new homebase…and creating new traditions.
On Christmas Eve, we walked to our neighborhood Moravian church for the Lovefeast ceremony – full of lots of beautiful choir music, Moravian buns (rolls with orange and vanilla), sweet coffee and beeswax candles that everyone holds at the end. Then, we came home and I made a seafood dish in keeping with the Italian tradition of having fish for the holidays.
After dinner, we made hot toddies and walked through the neighborhood, where each street was dotted with flickering luminaries. I don’t know who organizes the luminary thing, but it looks really magical – all those glowing lights trimming the streets, winding around the foothills of Buena Vista. There must have been thousands.
But back to food traditions – seafood at Christmas! I must have red meat on Christmas day, so seafood the night before is a wonderful balance. I made a recipe that I saw in Food Network Magazine from the amazing Lidia Bastianich, who is frequently featured in Bon Appetit and partnered with Mario Batali to create “Eataly” in NYC. I always wanted an Italian grandmother just like Lidia. So I should have known that this recipe would knock my socks off…
Scampi means heavy on the garlic and lemon…and butter. But Lidia’s recipe really goes above and beyond by creating a garlic-shallot paste that you treat much like and Indian curry paste – frying it in the pan until it dries out a little, then adding the liquids and simmering to thicken.
The flavors are aggressive and the seasoning is perfect – Grant about died when he snuck a spoonful of the buttery sauce simmering on the stove. I served mine over capellini, but it would also be good with crusty bread or any other thin pasta.
I have to call this recipe a MUST for anyone who loves Italian food, seafood and/or garlic.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 3 shallots, peeled and chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 7 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 cups dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon dry breadcrumbs
- 1/2 lb. dry capellini pasta
Combine the shallots, 5 cloves garlic and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a food processor. Process to make a smooth paste. Set aside.
Pour 6 tablespoons olive oil and the remaining garlic into a large skillet over medium-high heat. Let the garlic sizzle for a minute, then add half of the shrimp and all of the thyme. Season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until the shrimp are seared but not fully cooked, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove to a plate and repeat with the remaining shrimp and another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Remove the shrimp and thyme from the skillet to the plate.
Add the remaining 4 tablespoons olive oil and the garlic-shallot paste to the same skillet set over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until the paste has dried out and begins to stick to the bottom of the skillet, 2 to 3 minutes. Return the thyme to the skillet and pour in the white wine, lemon juice, the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, 4 tablespoons butter and 1 cup water. Bring the sauce to a rapid boil and cook until reduced by half, 4 to 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Keep warm.
When the sauce has reduced, whisk in the remaining butter and return the shrimp to the pan. Cook and toss until the shrimp are coated with the sauce and just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the breadcrumbs and bring to a boil just to thicken.
To serve, spoon shrimp mixture over pasta and garnish with more parsley and cracked pepper, if needed.
Rich and filling, this was just what we wanted on Christmas Eve.
Enjoy, friends! xoxo