Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CREAMY SHRIMP RICE BAKE

We REALLY enjoy this comfort food casserole. It is packed with tons of shrimp, rice and veggies, surrounded with a cheesy cream sauce. There are three (easy) steps to this recipe, but all can be done ahead of time and popped into the oven at dinner time. This recipe makes a LOT (serves 8)and it reheats very well!!


1½ cups UNcooked long grain rice
3 cups chicken broth (see note)
1 tablespoon butter.

In a large and deep sauce pan, melt the butter and put the RAW rice in with the butter. Stir and let the rice kernels toast in the butter until they just start to turn bright white, then add 3 cups chicken broth, stir, COVER and turn heat down super low and cook the rice for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, remove from heat and fluff with a fork. Set aside.

Saute the following together:
1/2 cup butter (see note below)
3 celery stalks chopped
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 green onions sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper (optional)
2 cups frozen mixed veggies (or your favorite fresh veggies)

Saute, gently for about 10 minutes. The last 2-3 minutes, add 1½ pounds of raw, peeled, de-veined and washed shrimp and cook only until they start to turn pink. Don't over cook, at this stage because they will cook the rest of the way in the oven.  I often skip this step and use pre-cooked shrimp (see note below).

In a bowl, gently mix the following:
Cooked shrimp
Cooked rice
Sauteed veggies
(2)10¾ oz. cans cream of shrimp soup (Undiluted)
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 cup milk
2 cups Colby-Jack Cheese shredded (see note below)

Place mixture in greased 10 x 15 baking dish and sprinkle with bread crumbs that have been sauteed in a little butter. Bake at 350 for 40-50 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

NOTE: The original recipe said to put all of this food into a 9x13 pan, but it didn't all fit, so I've had better luck baking it in a 10x15 pan (or TWO smaller baking dishes).

NOTE: It might sound like 1/2 cup butter is a lot, but remember that is for 8 servings (1 tablespoon per serving) and ½ cup of butter is necessary for the right sauce consistency.

NOTE: Make sure you use Colby-Jack cheese.  Cheddar (only) is not a good choice here, and the Monterrey Jack cheese (in the Colby-Jack blend) is super creamy.  You could always use American Cheese, that would work well too. Just make sure your choice of cheese is creamy when melted.

NOTE: I don't have a problem finding cream of shrimp soup, but if you do, cream of celery soup would work well too.

NOTE: For the bread crumb topping, Just put a couple of tablespoons of butter in a fry pan along with 2 cups of bread crumbs (plus a pinch of kosher salt and a pinch of black pepper and a pinch of cayenne pepper) and stir them until they get toasty brown, then sprinkle on the casserole before you bake it.

NOTE: If you are using fresh shrimp, ignore the following note, but if you are using frozen shrimp, it is extremely important that you thaw the shrimp in a colander overnight in the fridge (do not speed thaw in running water). It is unbelievable how  much water will drain out of the frozen shrimp (both raw AND cooked), and that water will make your casserole SOUPY and SOGGY. Let the shrimp thaw overnight, then the next day, rinse them and pat them dry. I usually use medium size shrimp for this recipe (40-50 shrimp per pound).

NOTE: This casserole can also be done with chicken instead of shrimp, just change the cream of shrimp soup to cream of chicken soup, and change the shrimp to cooked chicken.

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