I love baked rice casseroles – there is something so comforting about them. And when combined with a luscious, creamy, and rich herb-infused sauce, you get a delightful meal. This Baked Shrimp and Rice Casserole is an indulgence that you can make any time of the year.
You can make it with shrimp as I have, or try scallops, pork, or chicken. Change the herbs you use to suit each one. Dill is perfect with all seafood. Cilantro and oregano are both delicious with pork. Chicken is extremely versatile and is complemented by lemongrass, chili, garlic, ginger, basil, Italian herbs, and more. And of course parsley is the universal seasoning that goes with everything!
Shrimp are one of the few seafood options that do not suffer from being frozen – as long as they are handled properly. Always look for transparent packaging and avoid any that have ice crystals inside the bag or shrimp with discolored spots, which may be a sign of freezer burn. Defrost them in the refrigerator overnight, or if time is tight, leave them in their sealed plastic bag and submerge the whole thing in a bowl of cold water on the counter. They should be ready in less than an hour. Don’t soak them directly in water or they’ll lose a lot of their flavor.
Nestling the shrimp down into the rice does two things. It protects them, letting them cook gently and giving you shrimp that are moist and tender instead of dry and rubbery. It also seasons the shrimp, giving them a beautiful, delicate flavor. The shrimp are done when they turn lightly pink and opaque.
This casserole is perfect for family dinners or parties. Rich and creamy, it is very filling. You won’t need huge servings, helping stretch it to fee a lot of people and making this an economical meal. I hope you enjoy it as much as the Artist and I do!
Jane’s Tips and Hints:
If you want to turn this into a side dish or vegetarian entree, leave out the shrimp and just combine the sauce with the par-cooked rice. I love it like that too and it would be wonderful to have on hand for quick lunches or brunch!
Substituting a gluten-free flour blend in place of regular all-purpose flour in a recipe makes a nice roux. But because of the behaviors of the ingredients, I usually add another 2 to 3 tbsp of liquid to get the sauce to a thinner consistency. Use your best judgment, adding a little liquid at a time and whisking to incorporate completely before adding more.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 3 cups brown rice
- 1 tsp minced dill
- 1 tsp minced parsley
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 5 cups water
- 1 cup dry vermouth, white wine, sherry, or more water
- Dill Cream Sauce
- 1-1/2 cup milk (+ 3 tbsp if using gluten-free flour blend)
- 5 tbsp butter, divided, plus butter for the pan
- 3 tbsp all-purpose flour or gluten-free all-purpose flour blend
- 2 tbsp very finely minced shallots
- 2 tbsp very finely minced red onion
- 3/4 cup dry white wine, dry vermouth, or dry sherry
- 2 tsp minced dill
- 1 tsp minced parsley
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp dried red chili flakes, optional
- 2 lb medium or large raw shrimp, shelled and deveined
- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- Sliced green onions, for garnishing
- Pre-cook the Rice: Melt butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the rice and stir to coat with the butter. Cook for about 3 minutes, stirring often, to lightly toast the rice. Add the dill, parsley, onion powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the water and wine. Cover and cook about 30 minutes or for 3/4 the recommended time on the packaging. The rice will finish cooking in the oven. Remove from the heat, remove the pan’s lid and let the rice rest while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Prepare the Sauce: Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a shallow 3 to 4 quart baking dish, individual ramekins or au gratin dishes. I used a 9x3-inch round baking pan. Place on a baking sheet to catch any drips while baking.
- While the rice is cooking, heat the milk in a small saucepan over medium heat until it is just below a simmer, stirring often to keep the milk from sticking to the bottom of the pan and scorching. There will be small bubbles around the edges of the pan and steam rising off the surface when it is ready.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt 3 tbsp of the butter over medium heat. Stir in the flour and whisk until it creates a smooth paste (also called a roux). Cook until it starts to turn pale gold. Slowly pour the hot milk into the roux, whisking vigorously until thickened and smooth. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat to low, and keep warm, whisking occasionally. You have just made a white sauce, otherwise known as Bechamel!
- In a saucepan, melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter and sauté the shallots and onions until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the wine, return to a boil and cook for another 3 to 5 minutes or until slightly reduced and flavors are concentrated. Stir in the dill, parsley, and lemon juice. Combine this mixture with the Bechamel, whisking until smooth. If you want a spicy note, add the chili pepper. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired; set aside.
- Assemble and Bake the Casserole: Transfer the par-cooked rice to a large mixing bowl. Pour the sauce over the rice and stir together. Transfer to the prepared baking dish. Nestle the shrimp into the rice leaving the tail ends poking up above the surface. Sprinkle the top evenly with the Parmesan cheese.
- Place in the preheated oven. Bake until the top is golden brown and shrimp are cooked through, about 20 to 25 minutes. If you want, you can put the pan under the broiler for a few minutes (watching carefully) to brown the top.
- Scoop servings onto plates or into bowls, garnish with sliced green onions, and serve immediately.
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings
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