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Basics with Babish’s Shrimp Scampi (Recipe Review)

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If you’ve been on the internet anytime during the last five years, chances are you’ve heard of Basics with Babish. Filmmaker Andrea Rea created the Youtube channel (now called Babish Culinary Universe) that highlights recipes he creates based on food from movies and TV shows. The channel now has an array of culinary videos featuring guest chefs and food celebrities that amass millions of views.

One of Rea’s videos features two versions of shrimp scampi: one simple and one more complex. Both versions looked delicious, but I was especially interested in trying the complex one as part of our recipe showdown. It features all of the classic ingredients found in most shrimp scampi recipes, plus a few unique additions, like tarragon and toasted panko. The recipe looked like no scampi I’d ever had before and I was eager to try it out. I headed into my kitchen and cooked it up.

How to Make Babish’s “Complex” Shrimp Scampi

Babish’s “complex” shrimp scampi is pretty involved and involves several steps. You’ll start by peeling the shrimp and reserving the shells in a separate bowl. Add salt and baking soda to the peeled shrimp and let them brine at room temperature. (This is said to improve the shrimp’s flavor and texture.)

Meanwhile, add the reserved shrimp shells, wine, a bay leaf, and peppercorns to a pan. Bring to a simmer and cook until the wine is reduced by half. Strain the stock and set it aside.

In a medium skillet, melt some butter. Add panko breadcrumbs and cook until toasted. Remove the breadcrumbs from the heat and set aside.

In another skillet, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add your brined shrimp and quickly sear just until par-cooked, then transfer onto a plate. Add minced shallots, red pepper flakes, and thinly sliced garlic to the pan and cook for just a minute. Add your infused wine mixture and let it simmer while you cook your pasta. (Make sure to reserve some pasta water for later.)

To finish the pasta, add butter and lemon juice to the sauce. Add your seared shrimp and let them simmer in the sauce until fully cooked. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir your cooked pasta into the sauce. Toss the pasta with the sauce and add some reserved pasta water until the sauce is thick and glossy. Finish the pasta with the toasted breadcrumbs, lemon zest, chopped tarragon, marjoram, and parsley.

My Honest Review of Babish’s “Complex” Shrimp Scampi Recipe

I’m a firm believer that shrimp scampi should be a low-effort, high-reward meal, but that wasn’t the case with this recipe. (Then again, what else would you expect from a recipe called “complex” shrimp scampi?) Compared to the other scampi recipes I tested, this one took twice as long to make, called for way more ingredients, and required multiple pans. I admit that I thoroughly enjoyed eating it, but I’m not sure it’s worth the fuss.

The scampi itself was tasty, and I especially loved the pop of texture from the panko breadcrumbs. The addition of tarragon and marjoram added a licorice-like freshness that elevated the whole thing and made it sing. The sauce had a nice consistency that coated the pasta perfectly without feeling wet or too dry. But at the end of the day, the recipe was just too much work without enough payoff. Compared to the simpler recipes I tried, it wasn’t any better. If you want to make a scampi recipe from Babish, I recommend trying his simpler version and saving yourself some time.

If You’re Making Babish’s “Complex” Shrimp Scampi Recipe, a Few Tips

Before you head into the kitchen to make this recipe, keep these tips in mind.

Have you ever made Babish’s “complex” shrimp scampi recipe? Let us know in the comments!

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