In a previous life, which is how Marion and I describe our lives before we met, I spent a month in England. My brother was living there, and when we weren’t wandering off up to Wales and Scotland or driving through France in a Brit car with the steering wheel on the wrong side, we spent much of our time at his house just outside a small village. Our grocery options were, shall we say, limited.
I had just begun taking an interest in cooking and thought that what my brother, who’d been in country for two and a half years, really needed was some homemade chili. So we trekked off to a neighboring slightly larger village with a slightly larger grocers to shop for ingredients. Walking into the store, I felt as if I’d entered a parallel universe. This was England, mind you, not Nepal or Uruguay, but I saw nothing familiar. Not the canned goods – excuse me, “tins” – not the produce, not the ground meats. By the time I’d finished making substitutions, what I cooked bore little resemblance to chili. Dinner that night was a lot of polite silence.
Now Marion and I are spending a good deal of time in Detroit – tag teaming, actually, taking turns helping one of our girls on a big project. So many meals are carryout or perfunctory, with time often being a deciding factor. And when we do cook, we’re cooking in not-our-kitchen, using not-our-stuff, shopping in not-our-stores. For me, at least, that has led to a fair amount of makeshift.
This shrimp dish is a perfect example. I’m not sure what put shrimp scampi in my head, but once it was there, I wanted it. The tart, lemony-garlicky-buttery sauce coating the linguine, the salty-sweet flesh of the shrimp, a little heat from red pepper flakes and the peppery freshness of chopped parsley.
Except the supermarket, a regional chain store in suburban Detroit, didn’t have parsley. Well, not Italian flat parsley – you know, real parsley. They had joke parsley, the curly parsley best known as a garnish added to your plate in old school restaurants that fancied themselves fine dining establishments. The parsley you saw when nobody ate parsley. Not only did the store only carry curly parsley, they carried it in regular and organic. What the hell, I bought it. Look closely at the photo and you’ll see it.
The bigger surprise came when I got home and the linguine I was sure was in the pantry was not. There was rice, though. And it all worked. The result was not a stellar meal that I would make again and again, but it was easy to cook, and good and satisfying after a busy day. Sometimes, that’s all food needs to be. I’m sharing the recipe because, hey, that’s what we do here.
Shrimp Scampi with Rice
1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/2 pound fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup uncooked white rice (to make 1-1/2 cups cooked rice)
1. Cook rice according to package directions. When rice is about halfway done, heat olive oil and butter in a large nonstick skillet over medium flame, swirling to combine. Add garlic and crushed red pepper to pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant—about 45 seconds.
2. Add shrimp to pan. Season with salt and black pepper and cook on one side for about 2 minutes. Turn and cook on the other side until just cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl with a slotted spoon.
3. Turn off heat under pan and stir in parsley and lemon juice and zest. Spoon a little of the butter mixture over the shrimp. Stir the cooked rice into the remaining butter mixture in the pan. Divide rice onto serving plates and top with shrimp. Serve.