Cooking with Boys: Shrimp Scampi

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from our previously published article at The Daily Basics:

There are infinite wonders in the kitchen that for decades were shared only with girls.  In my aunt and uncle's home, for example, the boys were forbidden to do housework which included just about everything in the kitchen, save skinning a fish.  Boys were meant to gather wood or feed the dogs, but certainly not fluff and fold or flute a pie crust.

Times have changed dramatically.  Now with the plethora of male celebrity cooks and people staying single longer, the stigma surrounding men in the kitchen has faded.  To that end, it is in our boys' best interest to prepare them for their culinary future.

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You will benefit from teaching kitchen skills to your boys as much as they will.  With practice, they will develop into self-sufficient kitchen wizards by adulthood.  Being a good cook won't hurt their chances when it comes time to settle down either.  Both of you will benefit from some quality time together and a chance to bond over food.  You will benefit by producing a trusted helper in the kitchen and, if you play your cards right, someone to make dinner for everyone once in a while (when they're ready, of course).

Here are a few things to consider:

  • Safety first - The kitchen is a fun, but potentially dangerous place.  Always demonstrate safe kitchen practices and explain the reasons behind them.
  • Start with the basics - Pepper your conversation with kitchen terms and vocabulary.  Make sure they know the difference between a colander and arugula.
  • Savor the experience - Listen to the sound of chopping, rub herbs in your palm and enjoy the fragrance, feel the fuzzy skin of a kiwi.
  • Boys like science - Explore the wide world of food science.  Why does water bubble when it boils?  Why do cut fruits turn brown?  Why does whisking work?
  • By the numbers - Consider the age of your helper and tailor your instruction and the jobs they perform as appropriate.  Very young ones may be best at handing things.  Young school age children might handle things like measuring or peeling carrots.  By middle school, you should be able to start introducing more complex lessons where safety and sound judgment play a greater role.  If you've been training all along, your teen will be ready for bigger culinary adventures.
  • Timing is everything - this should be time well spent.  Don't bother to embark on this mission unless you have time to do it correctly and with the right frame of mind.  A frantic Wednesday evening when you have 8 hours of stuff to do and only 4 hours until bedtime is not the evening to show/coach cooking.
  • The reveal - make a big deal out of the finished product.  Enjoy the fruits of your labor and tie it back to their involvement.

Remember that this is meant to be FUN time.  Experience the joy of being in the kitchen with your child and build memories that will last a lifetime.

To get you started we have selected a recipe that is simple to make yet is full of great kitchen lessons.  This Shrimp Scampi recipe will allow you to discuss and demonstrate things like squeezing lemons, mincing garlic, knife skills, how to know if seafood is fresh, making pasta, and much more.

Lola's Shrimp Scampi

(4 large servings)

Before you start:

After rinsing your shrimp, pat them dry with a paper towel to remove as much water from the outside as possible.

Don't forget to use a pot holder when removing the skillet from the oven!

We chose this recipe because most of the work happens before you begin.  This way you can take time to prepare your ingredients and teach some valuable lessons( including mise en place).  The actual time at the stove goes very quickly and each minute is filled with action to keep your son entertained and focused the entire time.

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The ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound uncooked, cleaned and deveined shrimp
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • Cappellini (angel hair) pasta for four

The method:

  1. Prepare all ingredients in advance.  This dish moves quickly.
  2. Toss parmesan, bread crumbs, and finely chopped parsley in a medium bowl.
  3. Bring pasta water to boil and season with salt.
  4. Heat oil and butter in a large oven safe skillet over medium heat.
  5. Turn broiler on at high setting.  Move rack to 6 inches from broiler.
  6. Place pasta in pot to cook.
  7. Add garlic to butter/oil and sauté until it just starts to brown slightly.
  8. Turn skillet to high and add shrimp in a single layer.
  9. Add wine and lemon juice.
  10. Cook shrimp without turning for 3 minutes.
  11. Move shrimp to broiler and broil for an additional 3 minutes.
  12. Drain pasta (usually at about 6 minutes for al dente perfection) and divide among 4 bowls.
  13. Remove shrimp (with a pot holder!).  Salt to taste and lightly toss shrimp with sauce.
  14. Divide shrimp equally among the four bowls.  Stir sauce and drizzle a little over each dish.
  15. Sprinkle a generous amount of cheese and parsley topping over each.
  16. Serve hot.