Serves 4 to 6
Why This Recipe Works: This simple one-pot Mexican staple is made by cooking rice, vegetables, and shrimp in a flavorful stock. Although this simplicity is part of the dish’s appeal, we found that there was a fine line between simple and boring. To coax as much flavor as possible out of our shrimp, we marinated them briefly and also made a quick but rich-tasting shrimp stock by sautéing the shrimp shells with onion and guajillo chiles, then adding water, peppercorns, cilantro sprigs, and bay leaves for layers of herbal flavor. Toasting the rice in olive oil helped the grains stay firm and not turn mushy when cooked. Some garlic and oregano added with the rice gave it an extra flavor boost. To achieve perfectly tender shrimp, we nestled the shrimp into the rice during the last few minutes of cooking.
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds extra-large shrimp (21 to 25 per pound), peeled and deveined, shells reserved
2 onions, chopped
4 guajillo chiles, stemmed, seeded, and torn into 1/2-inch pieces (1/2 cup)
Salt and pepper
4 cups water
1 tablespoon black peppercorns
5 sprigs fresh cilantro plus 2 tablespoons minced
2 bay leaves
5 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and chopped
2 cups long-grain white rice
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 3/4 teaspoon dried
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shrimp shells, 1 cup onion, guajillos, and 1 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until shells are spotty brown, about 10 minutes. Add water, peppercorns, cilantro sprigs, and bay leaves, increase heat to high, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain shrimp stock through fine-mesh strainer into large liquid measuring cup; you should have 3 cups stock. (If you have extra, reserve for another use.)
2. Meanwhile, whisk 2 tablespoons oil, half of garlic, cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper together in large bowl. Add shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
3. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add bell pepper, remaining onion, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook until vegetables begin to soften, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in rice, remaining garlic, and oregano and cook until fragrant and rice is translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice and 3 cups shrimp stock. Bring to boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
4. Nestle shrimp attractively into rice, in concentric circles, with tails sticking up out of rice.
Cover and cook until shrimp are opaque, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove pot from heat and let sit, covered, until shrimp are cooked through, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with minced cilantro and serve with lime wedges.
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