Today’s Honey Habanero Shrimp offers a fiery take on the classic shrimp scampi. Served on a bed of fluffy and flavorful rice pilaf, accented with tarragon and toasted orzo, this meal boasts a contrast of bold and nuanced flavors. And it’s simple, like, weeknight simple. And very spring-friendly. Temperatures haven’t quite hit spring levels in my neck of the woods. Sure, we’ve had some lovely days, but we also had snow last week. So my palette is ready for lighter fare, but shifting weather has me looking for comfort. This dish strikes the perfect balance between cozy and fresh.
When a shrimp craving hits, it’s always a bit complicated. It’s complicated because my partner doesn’t like shrimp. He loathes it actually, so I always have to have an alternative protein for him. Not because he demands it of me. It’s totally something I inflict on myself. And in all honesty, it’s no great burden to sear a chicken breast or thigh before adding the shrimp to the mix. But I have a weird hangup about eating a different dinner than my mate. It feels somehow less communal that way. It doesn’t seem to bother me when we order takeout or visit a restaurant. There’s obviously something special about our home table, which I will admit is deeply strange.
On top of all this, I feel bad about the shrimpy smell that lingers in our kitchen post-meal. And I’m hyperaware of the discarded shrimp packaging. I make a point of taking out the garbage immediately after unwrapping. He never complains about the smell, but I know it bothers him, and honestly, sometimes the shrimp is just not worth all this rigamarole.
I mention all these intricacies of my relationship and psyche to illustrate how special these Honey Habanero Shrimp are. When I decide to develop a shrimp recipe, the idea has to be so delicious, and so nagging that I have no other option but to tackle it. And since this was such a rare occasion, I decided to mark it with a special kind of shrimp.
You may have noticed that the shrimp pictured on ice are a beautiful shade of coral. Any person with any shrimp experience at all might mistake it for cooked shrimp. They are, in fact, not. These shrimp are Argentine shrimp and in their raw state, they are pink. This does make them a little trickier to cook, as you can’t rely solely on visual cues to determine their doneness.
I won’t lie, I was a little intimidated cooking these shrimp. Shrimp overcooks so quickly that without the color change, I was worried I would air on the side of caution a bit too much and blow past their optimal doneness. But the Argentine shrimp does curl like any other shrimp. And lose their “floppiness”, which is a technical term, as they cook. So all is not lost. You just have to stay attentive and not be afraid to give them a little poke every now and then.
But before you can even contemplate cooking the shrimp, you have to get the pilaf going. Now, there is a certain boxed brand of rice that many people love. A box that claims to be the San Fransico treat. And in that box, there is chicken soup mix, rice, and vermicelli. This was my sad introduction to the magic of pilaf. These days, I am more informed and thankfully have a far better palette. So needless to say, I did not deploy a box of anything to make this pilaf. And I now know that pilaf is a dish that has a home in numerous cuisines around the world. The word pilaf, for example, is Turkish and dishes like biryani and paella fall under the pilaf umbrella.
In my tarragon take on the classic pilaf, I opted to add toasted orzo in place of vermicelli. I can’t take credit for this innovation – I’ve seen numerous chefs and bloggers do something similar for years now. As it should be, it’s a great idea and it tastes damn good. I added peas and fresh tarragon to the mix and I’m a little ashamed to say bouillon seasoning. It just results in more flavorful rice, especially when you’re using boxed stock. If you have homemade chicken or seafood stock, of course, use that instead. But even though this blog projects a certain always prepared persona, the real person behind it is far from it. Boxed stock and bouillon seasoning were the best I could do on this day, so that’s the way it went.
So that’s everything you need to know about these Honey Habanero Shrimp with Tarragon Rice Pilaf. This recipe tastes super fancy but it takes minimal effort to make. Oh and it cooks up in 20 minutes, what more could you ask for on a Monday or Tuesday?
Honey Habanero Shrimp with Tarragon Rice Pilaf
- A large skillet
- A braiser or large saucepan
Tarragon Rice Pilaf
- 1 cup orzo
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 shallots halved and sliced
- 3 stalks celery sliced
- ½ cup white wine
- 1 cup jasmine rice
- 4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
- 1 tbsp bouillon seasoning
- 1½ cup frozen peas
- ¼ cup fresh tarragon stems removed
Honey Habanero Shrimp
- 300g (10.5oz) frozen raw shell-on shrimp I used Argentine shrimp
- 1 tbsp cornstarch
- ½ tsp salt
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 habanero pepper deseeded, thinly sliced
- Fresh ground pepper
- Celery leaves coarsely chopped, for sprinkling
- Peel the shrimp and transfer the shells to the freezer and freeze for future seafood stock. Place the shrimp in a bowl and add the cornstarch and salt. Toss to coat and set aside.
- Pour the orzo into a dry cast-iron braiser, cast-iron skillet, or large saucepan. Toast the orzo until golden. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Pour the oil into the skillet and add the shallots and a healthy pinch of salt. Saute until just translucent. Stir in the celery and saute until softened. Deglaze the pan with the white wine.
- Return the orzo to the pan and add the rice. Pour in the stock and stir in the seasoning. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed.
- While the rice is cooking, make the shrimp. Place the butter and olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. When the butter melts, add the garlic and a pinch of salt. Saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Stir in the shrimp and saute until they begin to firm up and curl. Add the honey and saute briefly, about 30 seconds more. Take the shrimp off of the heat and stir in the habanero.
- By now your rice should be done. Fluff the rice and add the peas. Return the cover and let stand for 10 minutes. When ready to serve, add the tarragon and fluff the rice once again.
- Spoon the pilaf onto a platter and top with the shrimp and any of the pan juices. Finish with fresh ground pepper and a sprinkling of celery leaves.