I may not be a pampered chef…

…but sometimes I really am the Dancing Queen.

I love ABBA. I’ve said it out loud, I’ve written about it and I’m doubling-down right now. Feel free to tease me, sing along or if it offends you, simply move out of the way. But in my world, ABBA, the Lumineers, ELO, the Smiths and Steve Earle can all live harmoniously on the same playlist. Dancing Queen fits right in between Copperhead Road and Girlfriend in a Coma.

Last night I met my dear friend Lisa to attend a candlelight string quartet performance of ABBA’s greatest hits. Yes, I did. It may be the first public concert event I’ve attended in two years. Back during our heavy-duty momming years we went to Mamma Mia at the Fox Theater together, so this was a natural encore. Certain people rolled their eyes all week as I blasted pre-concert mood music, but it was worth the hour+ I spent in ghastly Atlanta traffic for the 15-mile trip. ABBA as chamber music was glorious – it totally brought out all the layered melodies and the pop-perky compositions still flourished under the control of the string quartet. We had an absolute ball, and yes, Fernando got me.

The Edgewood String Quartet

Meanwhile, Husband toughed it out with leftover chicken at home, but I did treat him to some pretty swell Shrimp Scampi the night before. You might wonder why I would even mention this here – he’s a grown-ass man and can certainly fend for himself. Let’s clear something up: cooking a nice dinner is never a condition of my activities, solo or otherwise. It is not requested, required or assumed. I’m an independent, 21st century, feminist partner, not a meek, obedient, archaic stereotype. Seriously, just ask him. He will most likely only nod in agreement because a gentleman doesn’t speak with his mouth full.

It just happens that I find immense joy and personal satisfaction in my kitchen. If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, you may have figured out that I genuinely love cooking and creating a special meal. And while they are not commercial, my cooking adventures have also become part of my professional identity. I take my foolishness dead seriously because it’s my thing right now, so of course I left him a lovely meal – why would I cheapen my brand and risk forfeiting bragging rights? After all, it’s not Dancing Servant. It’s Dancing Queen.

dinners for Husband: with great prowess comes great responsibility…or I’m secretly a nice person

Anyway…just thought I should get that out of the way so I don’t fall into the HRC “stand by your man” trap one way or the other. I have no time for that nonsense; we need to consider Shrimp Scampi.

Scampi is the Italian name for small langoustines, which resemble and taste like prawns and shrimp rather than actual lobsters. To me, Shrimp Scampi is basically Shrimp Big-shrimp or Little-scampi Scampi, my personal fave, but either way it’s a classic, so naturally I had to mess with it. I almost paired my Little-scampi Scampi with grits, then switched to orzo, but finally landed on a pasta with some heft.

just beginning to see a little pre-flip pink

Notes: By sautéing asparagus early on with the oil, butter and garlic, it acquired a rich brown butter taste. Because the butter was so occupied with those veggies, there seemed to be less searing when I added the shrimp than with traditional scampi recipes. This is why you never crowd your pan, but I think marinating the shrimp compensated for any flavor loss. If it’s important to you, a little stint under the broiler would fix it. The linguini then claimed its share of the sauce so the final product wasn’t a soupy mess, but a bowl of well-appointed fresh elements…wrapped in wine, garlic and butter.

Shrimp Scampi with Asparagus & Linguini

zest is my new favorite – deeper & more intentional than juice alone


  • 1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, divided
  • Sprinkle of salt and pepper
  • 8-10 oz linguini
  • 2 Tbs olive oil
  • 2 Tbs butter
  • 1/2 lb asparagus spears, cut into 1” pieces
  • 4 green onions, green & white parts, chopped
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup white wine (from your glass is ok)
  • 4 Tbs fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
  • 2-4 Tbs grated Parmesan cheese, to taste


Add 1-2 Tbs of oil, 1 Tbs lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper to prepared raw shrimp and allow to marinate while you do the pasta and veggies.

Bring a few quarts of well-salted water to boil and cook linguini about 10 minutes to al dente.

Meanwhile, heat a large skillet on medium and add oil and butter. When butter has melted, add asparagus pieces and sauté 3-4 minutes. Add green onions and garlic and cook until fragrant, about one minute – don’t brown the garlic.

Stir in the red pepper flakes, salt and white wine. Simmer until the liquid is reduced by half. I kept the heat at medium, but raised it to a healthy medium-high for the next step.

Add shrimp and tuck them down to touch the bottom of the skillet. Flip when you see pink creeping up the sides of the shrimp. Cook until just done, and not curled. It should be a total of no more than 4 minutes. Squeeze in the remaining lemon juice, toss with the parsley and serve over linguini. Top with parm as desired.

Mamma Mia redux

One thought on “I may not be a pampered chef…

  1. Growing up in Europe in the 70s, ABBA was everywhere and ABBA was COOL. I listened to it with my friends during sleepovers, it was on the radio and in the air. We waited with bated breath for each new album. It was only when I returned to the US, at age 11, that I learned ABBA was perilously UNcool. Just saying the name could result in social pariah status. My older sister—the “rebel”—schooled me on my need to listen to Bruce Springsteen, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Styx and—gasp!—Molly Hatchet. In despite of her best efforts, I remained a “major dork” and celebrated with youthful abandon the release of ABBA’s “The Visitors” in 1982. While I set ABBA aside for awhile after they disbanded, and traveled deep down the path of New Wave, becoming—among other things—a devotee of The Smiths and Morrissey, ABBA has always had a place in my house and in my car. It still does. I, for one, celebrate the fact that “The Boy With The Thorn In His Side” can live peaceably, however improbably, with “Take A Chance On Me”. Betsy, my friend, we are either complete freaks or misunderstood geniuses.

    Incidentally, my favorite ABBA tribute film is not “Mama Mia!” (sacrilege!), but the 1994 Aussie indie film, “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”. Take my word for it, if you haven’t seen it, you haven’t lived.

    ABBA works well played by a string quartet and your photo of the setting in which they performed is, in a word, luscious. Wish I had been there. It has a distinct “Calgon-take-me-away” aesthetic. Luscious, too, are your pics of the shrimp scampi dish—I plan to try it out, even though I live in the land of Italian food jingoism. Yes, Virginia, a woman from Georgia can teach a boy from Connecticut how to prepare an elegant Italian dish….

    Liked by 1 person

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