Haul in the Net~

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Bourbon Shrimp Scampi

This recipe is a quick one. It is so quick, in fact, that I prepare the whole dish from scratch in the 6-minute cooking segment video! Still think you don’t have time to cook?

I will admit that I am a snob when it comes to shrimp—I have been spoiled by living so close to the Gulf. Gulf shrimp are sweet, salty and, when not overcooked, deliciously tender. For my money, you should always buy fresh local shrimp if it is available where you live. Now, I understand everyone in the US doesn’t live near a coast. That’s cool. I am just a big believer in “buy local and buy fresh.” If you have a choice between American Wild Caught Shrimp and shrimp from overseas—my money is on the American Wild Caught. Obviously, if you live in South Dakota, you’ll be buying frozen shrimp and, again, in that case, always look for the shrimp from the closest coast.

The “skinny” on shrimp:

~Storing fresh shrimp until ready for use~ any good fishmonger will place your fresh shrimp into a plastic bag and tie it closed. If you are not cooking them immediately, which most of us don’t, tell your fishmonger and they’ll place the bagged shrimp into a another ice-filled bag. If traveling, place this bag on ice in a cooler. You want to keep the shrimp as cold as possible without freezing. Once home, place the iced shrimp bag into the fridge. Your iced shrimp should last a day or two at the most. If you are planning on shrimp for Friday, it is best to purchase Friday or Thursday … but really no earlier.

~Don’t over cook your shrimp~ Shrimp cook really quickly and if you overcook them, they become tough and “rubbery.” Cooking until the bottom side is just pink and then turning them over will help to keep them tender. Once the shrimp turn pink and are no longer “translucent” on the second side, they are done. 

~Keep the tails on~ cooking the shrimp in their shells or peeled with the tail still left intact, will add extra flavor to the sauce and will help keep the shrimp moist. PLUS, you can use the tail to grab and pick up the shrimp. Down South, shrimp are finger food! Often times in Italy, small peeled shrimp are used in a recipe, while 2 or 3 large shrimp, heads and all, are used as a garnish on top.

~Using frozen shrimp~ there are several ways to defrost shrimp. You may 1) place them, frozen, in a bowl, cover it and place in the fridge to defrost overnight; 2) for a quicker defrost time: place the frozen shrimp in a resealable zip-top bag, removing any excess air, and place the bag into a large bowl of cold water. It should defrost the shrimp in about an hour; 3) NEVER defrost shrimp in a microwave or at room temperature just laying out. In a microwave, they will begin to cook before they are fully defrosted (you’ll get tough, rubbery shrimp) and on the counter at room temperature, you are just inviting food-spoiling bacteria to your party—not good!

 I hope you’ll give this recipe a try and, I have included the Italian “Scampi” version with white wine. And, as mentioned in the video, if you want to take this dish “south of the border,” replace the bourbon with an equal amount of your favorite tequila ~ olé!

Buon Appetito~


Bourbon Shrimp Scampi

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 large cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 to 1 1/2 pounds extra large (26/30 count) shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails left on.

Zest and juice of 1 lemon

1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup Bourbon whiskey [1/2 cup white wine may be substituted for an “Italian twist.” If using, see special cooking instructions.]

1/4 cup freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley

Slices of artisan bread for dipping

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, add the butter and olive oil. Once melted, stir until well combined. Cook until the foam subsides and the butter starts to slightly brown. Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes, quickly cooking for 30 seconds. Add the shrimp, making sure they form a single layer in the bottom of the skillet. Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes until the bottom side turns pink. [*From here, follow the “Italian twist” instructions if cooking with white wine.]

Turn the shrimp over, add the lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper, stirring to combine well. Pull the skillet off the heat, pour in the bourbon, returning the skillet to the heat, tilting the pan away from you to ignite the bourbon, if cooking over a gas flame. If using electric, return the skillet to the burner and carefully ignite the bourbon with a match. Once the flames have subsided, add the parsley. Quickly stir until combined and cook for a quick minute. Remove from heat, place the shrimp on a platter and pour any pan drippings/sauce over. Serve immediately with crusty artisan bread. Serves 4 to 6.

[*Italian twist instructions: Sauté for 1 to 2 minutes, turning over when the shrimp have turned pink on each side. (Do not overcook the shrimp at this step.) Remove the shrimp to a bowl and set aside.

To the sauce in the skillet, add the lemon zest and juice, salt and pepper, stirring to combine well. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, 2 to 3 minutes.

Return the shrimp to the pan and add the parsley. Quickly stir until combined and cook for another minute. Remove from heat, place the shrimp on a platter and pour the sauce over. Serve immediately with crusty artisan bread for “sopping” up the sauce.

**Click HERE to see me prepare the Italian version on the Today Show with Kathie Lee & Hoda!]

About the Author

Mark LeslieMark Leslie, seen cooking on NBC’s "The Today Show" and Hallmark Channel's "Home & Family," loves to cook for anyone with an appetite, vacations in Italy every year, and lives to eat his way through every plate of pasta and cone of gelato placed before him. His first book, “Beyond the Pasta: Recipes, Language & Life with an Italian Family,” tells of his life in Italy while cooking with an Italian grandmother. He shares his food experiences on his blog at www.beyondthepasta.com and has taught cooking classes in California, Georgia, Minnesota, Texas, and across Alabama. While judging for high school culinary events, he was chosen by the US Department of Education to judge for their "National Education Startup Challenge." Mark can be regularly seen cooking on NBC-affiliate, WSFA-TV 12's "Alabama Live! each Friday, bringing easy, locally sourced recipes to central Alabama. His iTunes app “Beyond the Pasta” features helpful videos and more of Nonna’s family-style recipes that she shared with him, plus, upon its release, it was named “New & Noteworthy” by Apple. DaVinci Wines chose Mark as their "2012 Storyteller" in Language Arts—where they sent him to Vinci, Italy, to write about wine, food and life. Mark, his home and book have been featured in such national publications and blogs as House Beautiful, Paula Deen, Food Republic, The Kitchn, Apartment Therapy, Field & Stream, and The Daily Meal. A Chicago-area native and “Yankee” by birth, Mark has lived in Alabama for over 24 years, and celebrates the fact that he started life eating farina, progressed to grits, and finally arrived at polenta. Buonissimo!View all posts by Mark Leslie →

  1. Jason ShawJason Shaw07-11-2012

    Thanks for using our EVOO. Please let us know how we can ever help.
    Jason Shaw

"Beyond the Pasta" is owned and operated by Mark Leslie. Unless otherwise specified all content, writing, recipes and photography is original and held in copyright through the Library of Congress. It may not be used without the express written consent of Mark Leslie.