Scampi Diabolique (devil prawns)


Prawns or scampi diabolique is an absolute staple in any restaurant or pub where I come from. In a restaurant it might be offered as an appetizer or a main course; and in a pub setting it's the perfect dish to accompany a bottle of wine, friendly conversation... a boozy night on the town. I like the latter purpose of devil shrimp, served with crusty baguette to dip into the spicy sauce. You'll find many ways to prepare this lovely dish and in time I'm sure you'll choose one and make it your own. In my kitchen, I make the "short" version with help from the supermarket. I use canned lobster bisque as a base for my sauce. It's a personal favorite for me, something that is both humble and fancy. For guests I may serve it with rice or fresh pasta like ravioli. But for myself, I prefer crusty bread to sop up the sauce and a glass of bubbly within reach.

Ingredients and preparation - scampi / gamba/ prawn diabolique

Appetizer for 2 people (double recipe for main course)
You'll need one ramekin per individual or a shallow oven dish for a main course. You'll need a whisk to make the sauce.

  • Around 200g - 220g peeled and deveined large shrimp/ prawns/ scampi (you can leave the tail on for 'looks' but I'm not personally interested) - shrimp count 12 to 20 depending on size
    • preferably wild and uncooked, definitely deveined
  • 1 can of lobster bisque concentrate (400g - you will only use half for 220g shrimp or about 1 cup)
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 - 2 garlic cloves, minced through garlic press if possible (I use two)
  • 1 large shallot, finely chopped
  • 1 bottle of fleurette cream (fridge in supermarket) - you will not need all of it
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 good tablespoon of cognac or to taste (you can also use dry white wine 10cl but cognac is best) - cognac: taste and adjust but it's best when the taste is there, but subtle
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper and/ or Pili-Pili
  • 1/8 teaspoon of paprika (use sweet or spicy Hungarian)
  • Optional: 2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes per person - cut in half or in thirds depending on size
  • 1 tablespoon of grated cheese like Gruyere (for color) per ramekin (grill)
  • salt to taste - there will be salt in the bisque so taste the sauce first, adjust accordingly
  • To serve: A loaf of crunchy baguette or French bread (pain) - refresh to crisp in the oven before serving
  • NOTE ABOUT THE SAUCE: I don't feel it's a ratio of shrimp to sauce here - to just have enough sauce to coat the shrimp is just not good enough. You have to have extra sauce to dip the bread. As an experienced amateur cook, I tend to "eyeball" it so it's difficult for me to discern the measurements.
    • If you must have measurements:
      • 1 measure of lobster bisque concentrate -> 200g = 1/3rd cup to 1/2 cup of cream
    • TO THE RESCUE: maizena, but only use this if your sauce is too thin



  • prepare all ingredients -
    • chop parsley fine
    • defrost shrimp, make sure they are all clean and arrange on paper towel to dip dry
    • prepare sundried tomatoes
    • lobster bisque
    • shop shallot
    • mince garlic
    • spices and cognac
  • Melt butter in sauce pan to hot
    • Dust scampi with paprika and a little salt (not much!)
    • Flash fry them in the hot butter, 1 minute, turn them over, then another 30 seconds
    • Set aside
    • OR you can skip this step and add the shrimp straight to the sauce but giving them a little colour presents well (I didn't do that this time)
  • Add shallot to the butter and sautée until glassy (don't brown them)
  • Add garlic and spices (cayenne, paprika, pili-pili) and stir - sautée together for one minute more
  • Pour cognac into the saucepan and cook 1 minute for the alcohol to evaporate
  • Add 200g lobster bisque (the kind I used from Super U weighed 400g, so I used half)
  • Add cream and stir - start with 1/3 cup
  • Add sundried tomatoes
  • Reduce heat to simmer until the sauce has thickened
  • MEANWHILE: preheat oven and refresh baguette to crusty
  • Taste the sauce for spiciness - salt and overall flavor.
    • Ideally you have all kicks to the sauce perfectly complimenting each other: lobster, cognac, cream, spices and garlic.
    • IF the flavor of bisque or cognac is too overwhelming, simply add a bit more cream to soften it and simmer a little bit longer
  • Add the shrimp and parsley, simmer 2 more minutes
  • Transfer everything to a shallow oven dish or ramekins
  • Top with 1 tablespoon of shredded cheese per person
  • Pop dish(es) in the oven to broil until cheese is browned a little - If you're skipping this step simmer the shrimp in the sauce for 2 - 4 minutes
  • SERVE: with rice or sliced crusty bread

TIP: it does not take long to cook shrimp, it takes 2 - 3 minutes on each side about 6 minutes in total depending on thickness. Overcooking shrimp makes them rubbery and unpleasant.



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