A bag of frozen shrimp and a box of rice are the makings of a dinner that is delicious, family friendly and quick to throw together. These versatile ingredients take the lead in cuisines around the world, adapting well to dishes that are sweet, spicy and savory. Shrimp cooks quickly, so add the shellfish toward the end of the cooking process, and cook only until the shrimp are no longer translucent.
Down on the Bayou
Savory Cajun food makes ample use of shrimp and rice in many of its most famous dishes. Shrimp gumbo is a rich soup that has been thickened with a roux of flour and butter. Traditionally, gumbo also contains bell pepper, onion, celery, okra, garlic, and additional proteins like chicken or sausage, but you can adjust the vegetables in the soup to please picky eaters in your family. Gumbo is served alongside rice, which can be made plain or jazzed up with red beans. Jambalaya is another Louisiana shrimp and rice specialty, but instead of cooking the rice separately, as with gumbo, the rice is cooked with the soup, resulting in a thick stew. Cajun food can be very spicy; if your family prefers to walk on the mild side, halve the amount of pepper, chili sauce and other spices called for by the recipe. Serve chili sauce on the side for those who want to kick up the heat.
Say "Si" to Shrimp
Paella, a traditional Spanish dish that includes rice flavored with saffron, is an ideal vehicle for shrimp and makes an easy, one-pan meal on a busy weeknight. While most recipes for paella call for the meat being used to be sautéed before the vegetables and rice, shrimp cook extremely quickly and will become tough if cooked for too long. If you are combining shrimp with proteins like chicken or sausage in paella, cook the other meats first. Stir the shrimp into the paella about five minutes before it is done to ensure that everything cooks evenly. While paella is a meal in itself, sides of buttered peas, pinto beans or a spinach salad with creamy dressing make a full table, as does iced tea for kids and sangria for the adults.
The kids are spending the evening with friends, and you and your spouse finally have a dinner to yourselves. Skip the expensive restaurants and share a romantic Italian dinner at home. Arborio rice creates a creamy, thick risotto that serves as a base for sautéed shrimp with garlic, onions, peas, carrots and tomatoes. Steamed asparagus drizzled with olive oil and lemon juice, homemade garlic bread, and store-bought blood-orange or lemon sorbet completes a meal made for "amore." While Arborio rice is the grain of choice for risotto, any short-grained white rice can be substituted.
From Szechuan to Stove-top
Chinese take-out is a hit with many families, but restaurants can be expensive and the food is often loaded with unhealthy ingredients. Recreate Chinese favorites at home by serving up restaurant-style favorites with your own twist. Families who crave spicy seafood can try Szechuan shrimp, while those who prefer savory fare can feast on homemade sweet-and-sour shrimp. Fluffy steamed rice is the perfect accompaniment for either dish, but rice can also be stir-fried with diced pork and vegetables for homemade fried rice. Steamed broccoli or sautéed bok choy round out a family meal that goes easy on your budget.
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- Yum Sugar; What's the Difference Between Gumbo, Jambalaya and Etoufee?; Susannah Chen, February 21, 2011
- Food Network; Shrimp Paella with Chorizo; Rocco DiSpirito
- Food Network; Shrimp Risotto; Kenneth Johnson
- Cook's Illustrated; Arborio Rice; May 1, 2008
- Food and Wine: Szechuan Shrimp
- Study Spanish: Paella
- Maria Teijeiro/Photodisc/Getty Images