Too often when I cook a dinner that calls for shrimp, I simply peel off the shells, then toss them away. I don't even think twice about it most times. So I was intrigued by this recipe from Michael Lomonaco's Nightly Specials, because it takes those shells and puts them to a good use, all for a recipe that still only takes 30 minutes.
Some shortcuts are used, including starting the shellfish broth with some storebought clam juice. Also, quick-cooking couscous is used, which allows the cooking time to be cut down to just a few minutes. But thanks to all the other flavor additions, including saffron and red pepper flakes, this comes out tasting like you slaved for an hour or more.
Why I Picked This Recipe: I am sucker for any recipe that contains both both saffron and almonds. I was so engaged, I didn't even realize that the shrimp shells were used to make a quick shellfish stock. Luckily, even with this step, which takes 20 minutes, everything else is a breeze. The shells are strained out, and then about six minutes later, dinner is done.
What Worked: Thanks to the broth and the saffron, the couscous is really flavorful. Even the shrimp, which are just tossed in at the very end, manage to stay plump and not rubbery. I also appreciated the crunch from the almonds sprinkled on top.
What Didn't: The couscous could have been lighter, and the texture was just a tad mushy. But correcting this would have required more time. Sometimes it pays off to take the shortcut.
Suggested Tweaks: Nothing immediately jumps to mind. You could use another protein, but I liked what the shrimp shells added to the broth.
Adapted from Michael Lomonaco's Nightly Specials
- Yield:serves 4
- Active time: 30 minutes
- Total time:30 minutes
- 1 pound fresh small shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved for broth
- 2 cups bottled clam juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced (about 1/2 cup)
- Pinch of saffron threads
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 cups packaged, quick-cooking couscous, rinsed under cold water and drained
- 1/4 cup shelled almonds, coarsely ground
Pour the clam juice into a medium-sized saucepan, and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Add the shrimp shells, and lower heat to maintain a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Discard the shells.
Pour the oil into a large pot set over low heat. Add the onion and cook until softened but not browned, about four minutes. Add the saffron, tomato paste, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and red chile flakes. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until very fragrant, about two minutes.
Pour in the shellfish broth, and stir the bottom of the pot to dislodge any browned bits. Bring to a boil over high heat, and then reduce heat to a strong simmer. Stir the couscous, and cook until most of the liquid has been absorbed, about two minutes.
Season the raw shrimp with a pinch of salt and pepper, and then stir them into the couscous. Cover the pot and let the shrimp steam until firm and pink, about four minutes. When done, turn off the heat.
Divide the mixture between four large bowls. Garnish each with a tablespoon of the ground almonds. Adjust seasoning if necessary.