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Season 17, Episode 6 Recap: How to Make the Best Shrimp Scampi

The key ingredient is one you’re used to throwing away.

Published Feb. 13, 2017.

He has said it himself: Jack Bishop takes pleasure in watching his co-stars squirm during taste test segments. In the latest episode of America’s Test Kitchen, Jack subjects host Bridget Lancaster to a fish sauce tasting. (Note: drinking fish sauce from shot glasses isn’t the preferred way to consume fish sauce.) Julia Collin Davison teaches Bridget how to cook salmon evenly, Dan Souza discusses the differences between farmed salmon and wild salmon, and Elle Simone makes shrimp scampi.

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"Seafood Supper"

Host Julia Collin Davison pan sears salmon, Dan Souza discusses the differences between farmed salmon and wild salmon, Jack Bishop and host Bridget Lancaster talk fish sauce, and Elle Simone makes shrimp scampi.  
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Five Takeaways from the Episode

1. Salmon’s Shape Makes It Difficult to Cook Evenly: The ends of a fillet of salmon are about half as thick as the rest of the fish. Buying individual fillets is fine, but if you can find a center-cut piece of salmon that hasn’t yet been divided into fillets, that’s the way to go. When you’re able to cut salmon into fillets at home, you can make sure each piece is exactly the same thickness, ensuring a more even rate of cooking.

2. For Perfect Pan-Seared Salmon, Start Your Fillets in a Cold Pan and Skip the Oil: Low, slow heat helps render the fat from the salmon, so you don’t have to add any other fat to the pan. The low heat will also help ensure the thin ends of the salmon don’t overcook.

3. Fish Sauce is Fermented Anchovies (and It’s Not an Exclusively Asian Condiment, Believe It or Not): To make this umami explosion of a condiment, producers take whole anchovies, salt them, and put them into a vat for 12 months. And while we often think about fish sauce as an Asian ingredient, the Romans were using some version of it 2000 years ago.

4. Salmon’s Lifestyle Determines How Long It Should Be Cooked: According to Dan, farmed salmon is the “couch potato” of salmon varieties. Because of its sedentary lifestyle, it contains more fat than any wild variety—up to four times as much as the leanest wild species. Its collagen also contains fewer chemical cross-links than wild salmon, which means weaker collagen and softer flesh. Wild salmon, on the other hand, contains less fat and and more cross-linking in its collagen proteins, so it can feel dry when cooked to our preferred 125 degrees. So if you’re cooking farmed salmon, cook it to 125 degrees. But if you’re cooking wild salmon, 120 degrees will do.

5. The Secret Ingredient to Shrimp Scampi Is Shrimp Shells: Don’t trash those shells! Instead, use them to help build a stock. (It only takes five minutes.) Shrimp shells are packed with flavor, and cooking them in oil and white wine helps extract that flavor.

Quote of the Week: “At first it was like I had just dove into a really unclean aquarium.” —Bridget Lancaster to Jack Bishop during a taste test of fish sauce.

Can't wait for next week's episode? Get your fill with our past episode recaps: 

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