Sunday, October 20, 2013

Shrimp Scampi? Really

Yes, it's a national chain, but The Cheesecake Factory, besides offering an array of very rich desserts, delivers quasi-fine dining dishes at reasonable (not necessarily cheap) prices for mid-level earners.

I was there recently and ordered the Steak Diane & Shrimp Scampi.  The meal was described as, "Medallions of Certified Angus Beef Steak Covered with Black Peppercorns and a Rich Mushroom Wine Sauce. Served with Mashed Potatoes and Shrimp Scampi." 

When it arrived, half the plate featured chunks (not really medallions) of tender well seasoned medium rare beef covered in a delightfully peppery mushroom red wine sauce.  The opposite end of the plate featured the scampi.  A row of garlic mashed potatoes separated the two proteins.

The steak was wonderfully savory and slightly spicy.  The potatoes were rustically mashed/smashed, giving them a homespun texture which complemented the herbs and pleasant kick of garlic.  It was the shrimp scampi that was the surprise.

Typically, Shrimp Scampi is defined as, "a dish of shrimp or prawns grilled or sautéed in oil or butter and garlic," so I expected 4 to 6 garlic butter drenched prawns.  Instead, I received 3 large lightly breaded, well seasoned shrimp resting within a pool of basil/lemon cream sauce and chopped tomatoes.

The shrimp themselves had a nicely seasoned Italian-esc flavor & pleasant crunch.  The sauce was rich and savory with a hint of tartness from the lemon juice and a touch of sweetness from the tomatoes.  Ironically, I quit ordering their pasta for lack of a good cream sauce, then I ordered their Scampi and discovered one of my favorite cream sauces ever.

I can't bring myself to call it "Shrimp Scampi," but it's so good that I definitely wanted to be able to make it.  I couldn't find the specific recipe.  However, I found the recipe for Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta which uses, what looks like, the same shrimp & sauce.  I rewrote the recipe without the pasta or mushrooms, and posted the modified recipe below, along with a standard Shrimp Scampi recipe for comparison.

All things considered, I give The Cheesecake Factory, at Washington Square Mall, 9.3 out of 10 stars.

Traditional Shrimp Scampi
There are hundreds, if not thousands of variations of this shrimp in garlic butter dish.  Yet, when one orders "Shrimp Scampi" one expects a course along these lines, give or take a garlic clove.

Serving Size: 4 Servings

 photo Scampi served
Title: Scampi served | Photographer: Jon Sullivan This file 
is in public domain, not copyrighted, no rights reserved, free for 
any use.

  • 1 lb. large (16-20 count) shrimp, shelled and deveined|
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil|
  • 2-3 Tbsp. butter|
  • salt|
  • 3-4 slivered garlic cloves|
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flake|
  • 1/2 Cup white wine|
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley|
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste|
  • 1 Tbsp. lemon juice|


1 Heat a sauté pan on high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the olive oil and butter. Once the butter melts, foams up and subsides, add the garlic and red pepper flakes. If using unsalted butter, sprinkle with salt. Sauté for a minute, or until you see the edges of some of the garlic just beginning to brown.

2 As soon as the garlic begins to brown, add the shrimp to the pan. Then add the white wine and stir to combine and coat the shrimp with the butter, oil, and wine. Spread the shrimp out in an even layer in the pan. Increase the heat to the highest setting and let the wine boil vigorously for 2-3 minutes.

3 Turn the shrimp over, or toss them so the cooked sides are mostly facing up, and boil the wine for another minute. Remove from the heat, add the parsley and toss to combine. Add the lemon juice and black pepper.

Serve alone, with crusty bread, over pasta, or over rice (for gluten-free version).

This recipe prints as page 2 for your refrigerator or recipe file.

Cheesecake Factory's Shrimp Scampi
Based on what I tasted and extrapolated from Cheesecake Factory's Bistro Shrimp Pasta recipe

Serving Size: 6 Servings


Lemon Basil Cream Sauce: photo scampi.jpg
  • 1 Cup tomatoes (diced)|
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil|
  • 4 Tbsp. butter|
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced|
  • 2 Cup heavy whipping cream|
  • 2 Cup chicken broth|
  • 1/2 Cup lemon juice|
  • 4 Tbsp. cornstarch|
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper|
  • 1 Cup chopped fresh basil|
Shrimp Portion:
  • 18 large (16-20 count) shrimp, deveined and shelled|
  • 2 eggs, beaten|
  • 1 Cup flour|
  • 1 Cup Panko|
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder|
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning|
  • 3 Tbsp. butter|
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil|   
  1. Saute tomatoes in oil until warm. Set aside.
  2. Melt butter in large skillet. Add garlic and saute for 2 minutes. Add cream and chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook about 8 minutes or until reduced by about half.
  3. Whisk together fresh squeezed lemon juice and corn starch until smooth. Add pepper.
  4. Add lemon mixture to cream mixture and whisk constantly for 2 minutes. Turn down to lowest heat just to keep warm.
  5. Dip raw shrimp in eggs and then transfer to coat with Panko breadcrumb and flour mixture. Fry in butter and oil for a few minutes until golden brown. Allow them to drip on paper towel covered plate and cook the remainder of shrimp this way.
  6. Add basil to sauce.
  7. Cover the plate with sauce. Top sauce with tomatoes and 3 shrimp evenly spaced on plate.
  8. Drizzle more sauce over shrimp & tomatoes and serve.
This recipe prints as page 3 for your refrigerator or recipe file.

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