Shrimp Rice Pilaf is a delicious dish made with whole colossal shrimps, long grain rice, and a very flavorful tomato sauce made out of the shrimps' shells and heads.
If you are not familiar with the term "Pilaf", then let me tell you what it is. A Pilaf is a dish made with long-grain rice (parboiled or Basmati), that gets finished off in a sauce. Meaning the rice is added right at the end when the sauce is thickened so it absorbs it all. Resulting in a rice dish that's firm to the bite. Not mushy and saucy like Rissoto for example.
You can make Pilaf in many ways even with veggies or meat. But this one beats them all by far. Is there really anything more flavorful than shrimps?
And I'm talking about whole colossal shrimps. It doesn't matter so much if you use fresh or frozen as the good thing with Shrimps is that they don't lose almost any of their flavor when frozen. What makes a difference in flavor though is how much they have been processed. Blanched shrimps for example won't bring much flavor to a dish. But whole instantly frozen ones have a lot to give.
And now you may be wondering why I haven't removed the shrimps' heads in this recipe. I do this for two reasons.
Reason number one, it's how we Greeks eat them. I am not sure how much you will like to know what I am about to say, but I will give you the chance to try it...
Here is how you eat a whole shrimp. The first thing you do is to remove its head and drink all the liquid that's inside it (I meant to say suck, but it doesn't make it sound very appetizing). But that's the most delicious part out of the whole shrimp. And then you eat the rest of the shrimp.
As for reason number two, it's because the heads contain so much flavor (what I tried to explain in reason number one, and hopefully you are still with me and not disgusted and left 😀 ). And all this flavor is what goes into the sauce and makes it sooo tasty! Plus, they look more wow-ish when you serve them whole don't they?
Want another great recipe using whole shrimps? Try my Shrimp Spaghetti With Fresh Tomato Sauce.
I do use some headless shrimps also that get mixed with the rice in this recipe. So if you don't like your shrimps with their heads on, simply remove them from all the shrimps.
How To Clean And Prepare Whole Shrimps
It's easy to prepare whole shrimps but it takes some time to do so. That's mainly because of the deveining process. That does require some patience as it's a process that requires you to work slowly. But let me tell you how to do it like a pro in a few simple steps.
- First, pull and remove the head (skip this if recipe instructs so).
- Second, remove the legs.
- Third, remove the shells by grabbing hold of them right from where you removed the legs. Leave only 1 small piece of shell where the tail is. And if you haven't removed the head, leave also one small piece of shell right after the head to help hold the head in place.
- Fourth, de-vein. For the shrimps that have their heads on, use a toothpick and prick right under the head on the back of the shrimp. Gently pull out the little black vein. Then hold it with your hands and carefully pull it upwards towards the shrimps head. If you have removed the head you'll be able to see the little vein comming out. Hold it and pull it upwards very slowly so it won't break. If the vein breaks at some point and doesn't come out all in one piece, then simply prick and pull it out again. Using a toothpick leaves the shrimp looking almost intact. Some people use a knife and cut the back all the way down to reveal the vein and remove it. But that is really not necessary. The toothpick method is what professional cooks do and only requires for you to practice on 2-3 shrimps until you get the hang of it.
A Quick Peek On How To Make Shrimp Rice Pilaf
- Make the sauce in the same fashion you cook a stock. Using the shells and heads from the prepared shrimps. Along with tomato sauce, white wine, red onion, green garlic (or green onions whatever you find), green bell pepper, crushed garlic, bay leaf, fresh parsley.
- While the sauce is cooking, cook the rice seperately, and set aside to drain.
- In an another pot, saute the shrimps and then add the reduced sauce that you have passed through a sieve.
- Remove the shrimps that are to serve on top (the ones with the heads) and leave only the headless ones in the sauce. Stir in the rice.
- Serve with crumbled feta cheese and chopped fresh chillies on top. But that's optional and only if you like spicy!
Shrimp Rice Pilaf
- 2 cups (420 grams) long-grain parboiled rice
- olive oil
- 1 kilogram / 2.2 pound whole Colossal shrimp fresh or frozen (you may use jumbo shrimps instead if you wish)
- 1 small red onion minced
- 100 ml white wine
- 500 ml tomato sauce
- 1 green bell pepper cut into quarters
- 2 small green garlic (or green onions instead)
- 1 teaspoon crushed garlic (bout 1-2 cloves)
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 sprig fresh parsley
- 85 grams / 3 oz feta cheese crumbled plus some extra to serve with
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- OPTIONAL: 1-2 small chilli peppers
Prepare The Shrimps:
- If using frozen shrimps, add them to a large bowl with lukewarm water for a few minutes to unfreeze.
- For this recipe, I keep about 12 shrimps (3 for each portion) with their heads on to serve with. In Greece, that's the normal way of eating shrimp as most of the flavor comes out of the head. But if you don't like eating shrimps this way just go ahead and remove the heads from all the shrimps.
- To serve them as in this recipe: clean the 12 shrimps by removing the legs and then the shells. Leaving only one small piece of the shell next to the head of the shrimp to hold it in place, and a small piece of shell on the tail. Repeat this process for all 12 shrimps. Then for the remaining shrimps, clean them this way: First, remove the head. Second, remove the legs. And thirdly, remove the shell leaving only one small piece of it holding the tail. NOTE: Do not discard the shells or heads. Keep them aside in a strainer.
- Devein the shrimp: Using a toothpick, prick the shrimp right under its head (on its back) and gently pull out the end of the small black vein. Once you have pulled out the tip of the vein grab hold of it with your fingers and pull it slowly upwards, towards the head of the shrimp. This way it comes out all in one piece. But if it breaks (which often happens) just prick with the toothpick again somewhere in the middle of the shrimp and pull it out again.
- Devein all shrimps and then rinse well. Place on a large plate and season lightly with salt and pepper. Place in the fridge and proceed on making the sauce.
Make The Sauce:
- Heat a good splash of olive oil in a medium-sized cooking pot over high heat.
- Add the shrimp shells and heads you kept and cook for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. The heads should turn a deep golden color and the bottom of the pot should look like you have caramelized butter with brownish bits here and there.
- Drop heat to medium-low and add the onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes until it starts to soften and get some color. Pour in the wine and cook for a few minutes more until it evaporates completely and stops smelling of alcohol.
- Pour in 1 liter of hot water. Add the tomato sauce, green bell pepper, green garlic (or spring onions), crushed garlic, dried bay leaf, and the sprig of parsley. You don't need to cut the green garlic or sprig of parsley. Just toss as is in the pot. The sauce will be strained afterward.
- Season with salt and pepper. Cook for about 45 minutes, partly covered until the sauce in the pot reduces by half.
Cook The Rice:
- Meanwhile, in a different pot, cook the rice according to its package instructions. Once cooked, let the rice sit in a strainer until it is time to use it.
Finish It Off:
- When the sauce is ready pass it through a sieve and set it aside.
- In a wide cooking pot this time, heat a splash of olive oil over high heat. Add the shrimps and cook for 2-3 minutes flipping them once. Giving them a light searing.
- Pour in the sauce and wait until it starts to boil again. Then drop the heat to medium and cook uncovered for 8-10 minutes.
- Remove the shrimps with the heads from the pot, and add them in a bowl covered so they keep warm until you are ready to serve.
- Add the chopped parsley to the pot and crumbled feta cheese. Cook for a minute for the cheese to dissolve in the sauce. Add the rice to the pot, stir, and cook for 2-3 minutes until it absorbs all of the sauce.
- Serve in deep plates or bowls with 3 whole shrimps on each, and some extra crumbled feta on top. You may sprinkle some chopped fresh chilli peppers on top as well as they go so well with this dish. But that's optional and up to your liking. Enjoy!
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