Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends.
I’ve been on a breadcrumb kick lately. It might’ve been reignited by a recent visit to Press in St. Helena, Calif., where a salad sourced from the farms of the still-closed Meadowood Resort came with a topping of crispy sourdough breadcrumbs that were perfectly integrated into each bite. I’m not sure I’ll ever go back to croutons.
Adding an indulgent layer of texture to my home cooking, I've been sprinkling on breadcrumbs crisped up with butter. Here they lend a crunch to shrimp and asparagus, in what’s essentially a riff on shrimp scampi. Like that Italian-American staple, this dish features a tangy yet rich pan sauce of lemon, wine, butter and garlic, topped with parsley. Also like a scampi, it comes together super quickly once the sauce gets going, so it’s tailor-made for weeknights.
I go with panko over standard breadcrumbs because it’s lighter and flakier. But this could be the perfect opportunity to use up any stale bread you have on hand, after pulsing it in a food processor to a panko-like consistency. Watch the breadcrumbs closely as they cook in the butter, and be sure to stir frequently so the pieces toast evenly. Don’t get impatient as the pieces start to develop some color—wait for a deep golden-brown. Grating or pressing the garlic, rather than chopping, helps it better distribute into the mixture, allowing its aromatic notes to emerge during the cooking process.
The butteriness of the breadcrumbs and the lemon-spiked sauce pair nicely with the green, vegetal taste of the asparagus, and with the shrimp, a protein that begs for bright acidity. Blanching the asparagus may seem like a tedious step, but not only will it bring out a livelier shade of green, it also gives the stalks a head-start on cooking, so it only takes a few minutes for them to get tender once they’re added to the pan. I recommend peeling them beforehand so that all parts of the leaves are removed and they cook more evenly. It’s a fast blanch, so I like to keep the slices contained in a strainer that I lower into the boiling water, and then I can easily pull it out after 30 seconds and dump them into the ice bath to halt the cooking.
Once everything joins the pan, you’re less than 10 minutes away from dinner. However, you can prep some parts in advance for an even faster process: The asparagus can be blanched up to a day in advance and kept in the fridge, and the breadcrumbs can be made up to a week in advance.
With salt, lemon and red pepper flakes that can all be adjusted to taste, it’s virtually impossible to end up with a dish that’s lacking flavor. Complement the boldness with a white wine that has some structure, like my pick of the medium-bodied Bodegas Emilio Moro Godello Bierzo Polvorete 2019 from Bierzo in northern Spain. It’s super fresh, with hints of ginger, stony notes and some salinity for a refreshing foil to the butter-based sauce and the light spice. And at 90 points for $19, it’s a bang-for-your-buck bottle that matches the easygoing vibe of the meal.
Lemony Shrimp and Asparagus with Garlic Breadcrumbs
Pair with a fresh, medium-bodied white wine with stone fruit flavors and mineral elements, such as Bodegas Emilio Moro Godello Bierzo Polvorete 2019 (90 points, $19).
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Approximate food costs: $25
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
- 1/2 cup panko
- 1 clove grated or pressed garlic and 2 cloves chopped garlic, divided
- 1 bunch (about 20 stalks) asparagus, peeled and sliced into 1-inch pieces
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- Crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 pound peeled raw shrimp
- 3 tablespoons of lemon juice (from 1 to 2 lemons)
- 1 tablespoon parsley, finely chopped
1. Make the breadcrumbs: Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add panko, the grated or pressed garlic and salt to taste. Stir to combine. Toast, stirring often until fragrant and golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
2. Blanch the asparagus: In a large pot, bring generously salted water to a boil. (To save time, peel and slice the asparagus while you’re waiting.) Fill a large bowl with ice water and set it next to the stove. Add the asparagus to the boiling water to blanch for 30 seconds, then transfer to the ice bath. Wait about a minute, then remove the asparagus and set aside so it’s not left to soak.
3. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes to soften. Add wine and a pinch or two of red pepper flakes and let cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the liquid is reduced by about half.
4. Season the shrimp with salt and add it and the asparagus to the pan. Bump the heat to high and sauté, turning the shrimp occasionally until they are cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice. Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed, then spoon onto individual plates or a large serving platter. Top with breadcrumbs and fresh parsley. Serves 4.