After a particularly difficult week, my mother called all of us kids to dinner. There were six of us, and I think my sweet mother had more than a few “difficult” days. We rushed downstairs (the dinner hour was everyone’s favorite hour) but, nothing was on the table. Mom stood at the head of the table, as we all wondered where dinner was. Then said, “Now everyone, meet me under the table.” We all ducked down to discover our dinner was all set up BENEATH the table. Mom had arranged an entire picnic for us, complete with a blanket, basket, lemonade, and sandwiches. And we thought it was ahhhmazing!
This wild and wacky idea born in the middle of mommy chaos was just what six little girls (and one frazzle mama) needed that day. In a matter of minutes — as we sat giggling over the absurdity of our under-the-table dinner — all fears melted into unexpected smiles. Dinner morphed one bad day into utter delight!
This little lesson from my mom has helped me many times, now that I have children of my own. I now look for opportunities to make dinner more than just dishes and utensils on a table, and love serving our family with fun and surprising experiences.
This Shrimp Scampi is one of those fun ideas — dinner served out of one big skillet set in the center of the table. Such a great way to shake up our routine. Gather your kids, and invite them to dive in “family style.” No plates needed! No utensils allowed!
Simple and delicious, this dish will give everyone the night off from setting the table. Just place your skillet in the center of the table, and encourage your kiddos to dip big pieces of crusty French bread into the scrumptiously buttery sauce, and enjoy a tasty meal. And only one dish to be done at the end of the night!
My kids actually made the entire meal. It was easy for the younger ones to dip and dredge the shrimp. The teens pan-fried the shrimp until golden. The grownups tossed white wine in at the end to make the sauce. And everyone loved the idea of eating with napkins, bread, and one great big skillet. After taking her first dip into the sauce, my finicky teen grabbed another piece of bread and said, “Holy epic mom. This sauce is freaky good.”
And with that raving review, here’s how to make this freaky, epic (simple and delicious) dinner:
Start by prepping your shrimp, it’s wondrously easy. Simply dip the shrimp in a mixture of flour, salt, pepper, and a smidgen of paprika (optional, but it will give your final shrimp that gorgeous golden-red hue once fried).
Place your flour-coated shrimp on a plate. Once everything has been dredged in flour, it’s time to cook them until golden in olive oil or butter.
Heat about 1/4 cup of butter (or olive oil) over medium-high heat. Then add the shrimp, cooking until crisp and medium golden before you flip and cook on the other side.
Tip: Cooking just a few shrimp at a time works best. If you crowd the pan, the shrimp will get too moist and mushy. So, stick to cooking 6-12 shrimp per batch until they’re all done.
Once the shrimp have cooked, transfer them to a plate and set aside while you make the sauce.
Now it’s time for garlic. Once the garlic is browned, add white wine to the pan.
Chef’s Note: Classic scampi sauce calls for a white wine reduction. The alcohol in the wine will cook out as the liquid simmers. But, if you’re an alcohol-free home, you can use any one of the booze-free white wine options available in the beverage section of most grocery stores. Look for something that’s touted as “dry,” as you don’t want it too sweet. A mock Sauvignon Blanc is a great swap-in for the real stuff.
With white wine (or mock wine) added to the skillet, all you have to do is boil until the sauce thickens, and the wine is reduced in half. It will take about 8-10 minutes.
Once the sauce is ready, put your shrimp back into the skillet. Garnish with salt, pepper, paprika, and parsley. Then serve with warm, crusty bread (and not a spoon to be found!). Your kids are absolutely going to love this dish!
Family-Style Shrimp Scampi
Makes: 4 servings
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 teaspoon pepper, plus more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons paprika (optional)
1 1/2 pounds raw shrimp, peeled with tails on
1 cup butter (or olive oil)
6 cloves garlic
4 cups white wine (or alcohol-free)
1 tablespoon fresh parsley (optional)
1 loaf crusty bread (warmed in oven)
1. Mix together flour, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, and 1 teaspoon of paprika. Dip shrimp into mixture, coating each piece of shrimp on both sides.
2. Place 1/4 cup butter (or olive oil) in a skillet and heat over medium until hot. Watch the butter so it doesn’t burn. As soon as it becomes hot, cook 6-12 shrimp at a time in the hot butter. Cook until golden brown on both sides, then transfer cooked shrimp to a plate. Add 2 more tablespoons of butter/olive oil (if needed) and continue to fry the shrimp until all are cooked. Add butter as needed to keep the skillet well greased.
3. Once all the shrimp is cooked, add any remaining butter to the skillet, add garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes. Pour in white wine. (Be careful! The wine might flame when you first pour it in. If it does, just blow out the flame.) Whisk and boil until the wine reduces, about 8-10 minutes.
4. Add shrimp back into skillet. Garnish with salt and pepper (to taste), fresh parsley, and 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, if desired. Serve with crusty bread.
Note: Because the skillet will be hot, we recommend transferring the sauce and shrimp to a unheated skillet before serving on a table and sharing with children.