When I was around 18, I visited my mother’s best friend in New York. She took me for a drive out to Montauk on Long Island, then we stopped for lunch. The restaurant had garage doors for walls—all were opened to the ocean; the gulls were screaming; the weather was chilly. It was truly a delightful day, and even though I was born in New York, I was definitely a New Mexican at that point. My main problem with visiting my birthplace was the thickness of the air; it almost seemed palpable.
At that age, and having lived in a land-locked state for most of my life, I was inexperienced with seafood for the most part. So I figured I’d be safe with a basic order of shrimp scampi with rice. It was fabulous—garlic, butter, shrimp; what more could you want? However, I have unfortunately found that too many shrimps tend to drown in their buttery scampi sauces and they just don’t have enough garlic.
This recipe was designed to feed Gollum, before he became corrupted by his Precious, but now it is simply part of my monster chapter. It’s an elegant dish which allows you a great amount of freedom in your protein choices, though being land-locked, my choices are usually limited and expensive. Monsters certainly ate like gourmands around my house when I was testing these recipes. But I’m sure lots of people have completely different access to affordable seafood than I do. Serve with a salad, and some crusty bread is welcome on the side. Diet, be damned…
- 1 cup short grain rice
- 1 1/3 cups water
- 1 teaspoon saffron, crushed
- ½ teaspoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
- 3 tablespoons plus 5 tablespoons salted butter
- About ¾ cup shallots, peeled and cut into ¼” slices
- 2-3 tablespoons fresh garlic, minced or cut into ⅛” slices
- 2 – 2¼ pounds various raw shellfish *
- ½ cup dry white wine, such as Chardonnay
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, minced
In a 1½-quart saucepan, combine the rice, water, saffron, and ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil and stir once. Cover and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Cook 15 minutes. Turn off heat and add 3 tablespoons butter. Cover again; let stand undisturbed for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt the 5 tablespoons butter in a 5-quart deep skillet over very high heat. Add shallots and garlic and sauté 1 minute, just until the butter starts to brown. Add your seafood and cook over very high heat 2-3 minutes, stirring often, until fish is almost done (be careful not to overcook!). Add the wine, lemon juice, ½ teaspoon salt, and pepper. Sauté another minute or two. Right before serving, stir rice and divide into bowls; pour fish and sauce over each. Sprinkle each with parsley. Cover and refrigerate leftovers. Serves 4-6.
* This reflects the weight without any shells, and you will need all your fish choices to be in bite-size pieces. This dish is free to interpret according to what is available to you—good choices are bay scallops, lobster, or peeled shrimp (tail on or not); combinations are nice, or you can simply use one. If using frozen seafood, thaw according to package directions.
Vegetarian Option—The rice is a completely separate item and requires no adjustment. To replace the fish, I would suggest any combination of bell peppers, onions, summer squashes, broccoli, cauliflower, or asparagus. You should have a total of 2-3 pounds worth of vegetables. All should be cut into relatively uniform 1″ pieces; sauté just until they are crisp-tender, around 5-6 minutes.
My meat and potatoes husband Bob actually enjoys this dish—so that’s saying something! I would have loved to make this just with lobster, but I would have needed to refinance my house to do that. I’m usually content with something like the 2-pound bag of large, peeled, raw, tail-on frozen shrimp which I usually get from a place like Costco.