Shrimp scampi is rarely awful — it’s unusual for things to go terribly wrong when garlic, wine and butter are involved — but restaurant versions always make me wish I’d ordered differently. I have never been presented with the ultimate scampi at a restaurant, the one that I can almost taste when I peruse the menu: perfectly cooked, briny beauties in a garlicky, buttery (but not greasy) white wine sauce.
Start to finish: 45 minutes
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
11/2 pounds jumbo shrimp (16 to 20 per pound), peeled, deveined, and tails removed, shells reserved
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup dry white wine
4 sprigs fresh thyme
3 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon wedges for serving
1 teaspoon cornstarch
8 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Dissolve salt and sugar in 1 quart cold water in large container. Submerge shrimp in brine, cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes. Remove shrimp from brine and pat dry with paper towels.
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in 12 inch skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add shrimp shells and cook, stirring frequently, until they begin to turn spotty brown and skillet starts to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and carefully add wine and thyme sprigs. When bubbling subsides, return skillet to medium heat and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes. Strain mixture through colander set over large bowl. Discard shells and reserve liquid (you should have about 2/3 cup). Wipe out skillet with paper towels.
Combine lemon juice and cornstarch in small bowl. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil, garlic, pepper flakes, and pepper in now-empty skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until garlic is fragrant and just beginning to brown at edges, 3 to 5 minutes. Add reserved wine mixture, increase heat to high, and bring to simmer. Reduce heat to medium, add shrimp, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are just opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using slotted spoon, transfer shrimp to bowl.
Return skillet to medium heat, add lemon juice-cornstarch mixture, and cook until slightly thickened, 1 minute. Remove from heat and whisk in butter and parsley until combined. Return shrimp and any accumulated juices to skillet and toss to combine. Serve with crusty bread, passing lemon wedges separately.