Light and Bright: Shrimp Scampi and Shredded Chicken Tacos

Daniel Hautzinger
America's Test Kitchen's Shrimp Scampi and Shredded Chicken Tacos. (Carl Tremblay)
(Carl Tremblay)

Try two dishes from America's Test Kitchen: a buttery, garlicky Shrimp Scampi, and smoky, spicy Shredded Chicken Tacos. These recipes spend about twenty weeks in development and testing, so you know they must be honed to perfection.

Shrimp Scampi

Serves 4

Extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound) can be substituted for jumbo shrimp. If you use them, reduce the cooking time in step 3 by 1 to 2 minutes. We prefer untreated shrimp, but if your shrimp are treated with sodium or preservatives like sodium tripolyphosphate, skip the brining in step 1 and add ¼ teaspoon of salt to the sauce in step 4. Serve with crusty bread.

America's Test Kitchen's Shrimp Scampi. (Carl Tremblay)(Carl Tremblay) 3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons sugar
1½ pounds shell-on 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
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1. 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.

2. 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 ⅔ cup). Wipe out skillet with paper towels.

3. 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.

4. 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, passing lemon wedges separately. 

Shredded Chicken Tacos

Serves 6

In addition to the toppings included here, Mexican crema (or sour cream) and minced onion are also good choices. If you can’t find Cotija cheese, you can substitute crumbled feta. The shredded chicken mixture also makes a good topping for tostadas.

Chicken

America's Test Kitchen's Shredded Chicken Tacos. (Carl Tremblay)(Carl Tremblay) 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion, halved and slicied thin
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 (14.5-ounce) can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
½ cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons minced canned chipotle chile in adobo sauce plus 2 teaspoons adobo sauce
½ teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon grated lime zest plus 2 tablespoons juice

Tacos

12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
1 avocado, halved, pitted, and cut into ½-inch pieces
2 ounces Cotija cheese, crumbled (1/2 cup)
6 scallions, minced
Minced fresh cilantro
Lime wedges

1. For the chicken: Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of chicken and brown on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer to large plate. Repeat with remaining chicken.

2. Reduce heat to medium, add remaining 1 tablespoon oil to now-empty pot, and heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, cumin, and cinnamon and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomatoes, broth, chipotle and adobo sauce, and sugar and bring to boil, scraping up any browned bits.

3. Return chicken to pot, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until meat registers 195 degrees, 15 to 20 minutes, flipping chicken after 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to cutting board.

4. Transfer cooking liquid to blender and process until smooth, 15 to 30 seconds. Return sauce to pot. When cool enough to handle, use two forks to shred chicken into bite-size pieces. Return chicken to pot with sauce. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sauce is thickened and clings to chicken, about 10 minutes. Stir in lime zest and juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5. For the tacos: Spoon chicken into center of each warm tortilla and serve, passing avocado, Cotija, scallions, cilantro, and lime wedges separately. 

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