For the second time, with different sets of American friends, there was a slight confusion about the word scampi when they saw it on the restaurant menu. What is scampi? Isn't it the way shrimp are cooked using garlic butter sauce? My husband and I explained that they are langoustines. They are also known as Norway lobsters or Dublin Bay prawns. To be more specific, it carries the scientific name of Nephrops norvegicus. The plural form is scampi and singular is scampo. So I guess in the Italian-American restaurants in the U.S., scampi is referred to as the method of preparation of shrimp using garlic and butter rather than the ingredient itself. On the other hand, shrimp are gamberi in Italian.
This risotto is usually the one I choose in a seafood menu when I just feel like having something comfortingly familiar to the taste. Risotto alla crema di scampi never failed in pleasing my palate. Like most risotti dishes, this one is usually plain looking and tinged with pale peach color but it's bursting with the flavors of scampi. I usually evade dishes with cream but this one is an exception.
There are a lot of recipes in making this kind of risotto but this one has brandy in it and I'm so sorry to say, uses 4 saucepans, okay maybe 3. Yes I know, more washing. But I promise you, the brandy makes a difference! And after you try it, you will not hold a grudge why you have to wash more saucepans than normal. It's worth it, I'm telling you. So grab your 4 (maybe 3) saucepans and let's get on with the job. Don't forget the scampi!
Risotto alla Crema di Scampi
Partially adapted from Giallo Zafferano's recipe.
- 300 g. Vialone Nano rice (Arborio or Carnaroli)
- 16 scampi or langoustines (also known as Norway lobsters or Dublin Bay prawns. Scientific name: Nephrops norvegicus)
- 1 shallot or 1/2 onion, chopped finely
- 1 liter water
- 1-1/2 cups white wine
- 2 shot glasses brandy
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 4 cherry tomatoes, minced or 3 tablespoons tomato puree
- 150 ml. cream
- fresh parsley
- 2 knobs of butter
- 1 - 2 cherry tomatoes, minced for garnishing
- Extract the pulp of the scampi carefully with your fingers by making a long, vertical incision along the stomach using a pair of kitchen shears. Pull out the black filament and discard. Reserve the shells and the heads for making the broth. Leave 4 scampi (1 per serving) intact to garnish on the plate when serving.
- In a saucepan with little oil, put the 4 unopened scampi and around 4 empty shells with the heads, crush well with a spoon, then add one shot glass of brandy and flambé. Add 1/2 cup of white wine. Let evaporate for a couple of minutes on high flame. Turn off flame and cover. When it has cooled down, separate sauce from the shells & heads. Discard shells & heads. Set the sauce aside. In another container, set aside the 4 unopened scampi.
- In a saucepot,, boil 1 liter of water with the remaining empty shells & heads to make the broth.
- In another saucepan, sauté minced 1/2 shallot with a knob of butter. After a couple of minutes, add the pulp of the scampi. Sauté for 3 minutes then add the remaining shot glass of brandy, putting up the flame until the alcohol evaporates. When it evaporates, put back down the flame.
- Ladle some scampi broth (around 1/2 cup) and finely chopped tomatoes (or tomato puree).
- After a minute, add the cream then the sauce of the scampi shells & heads that you previously set aside. Cook together for 3 minutes.
- Reduce to a cream by using a handheld blender or a regular blender. Put back in the saucepan and simmer to reduce.
- Prepare the risotto in another saucepot. Sauté the remaining shallot in extra virgin olive oil. When it starts to color, add the rice. Toast for 3 minutes.
- Add the remaining 1 cup of white wine. Let it evaporate on high flame.
- When wine has evaporated, ladle enough hot scampi broth to cook the rice initially, like 1/3 of a liter (no exact amount). Maintain a low fire. Then ladle broth little by little until the risotto is cooked through. Mix with the wooden spoon frequently to avoid sticking to the bottom.
- 3 minutes from the end of cooking, add the scampi cream and let it cook through. Season with salt & pepper.
- When risotto is cooked, turn off fire and add a knob of butter and parsley (leave some for garnishing). Mix well.
- Let it rest for a few minutes.
- Garnish with chopped tomatoes, parsley & scampi that you set aside. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.