Gulf Shrimp Pilau

Perfect Pee-loe

The word pilau refers to a rice dish that has been prepared in a seasoned broth of onions and vegetables and served with shrimp, crawfish, crabs, chicken or game. It arrived here in the states with African slaves where it became popular along the southern states and up the eastern seacoast.

Good pilau comes from the cooking techniques of the folks that make it. The secret is in the stock, one that uses the shells of the seafood or the bones from the game. True bayou cookery calls for throwing in a couple of live crabs into the pot when making the stock, just to season it correctly.

This is the way I like to make mine. Even in the heat of summer, late in the evening, nothing is finer than a plate of seasoned rice and shrimp cooked the way it is meant to be – and the way we were taught. Enjoy!

Gulf Shrimp Pilau
2 pounds fresh shrimp, heads and shells on
    2 large yellow onions, finely chopped, divided in half
    2 carrots, chopped with tops preferred
    2 celery stalks, chopped with tops preferred
    1 bay leaf
    Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
    8 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
    1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
    1 1⁄2 cups long-grain rice
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    3 large ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped saving the juice (or 1 -28 oz can whole tomatoes, undrained and chopped)
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
      Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Remove heads and shells from shrimp and refrigerate the shrimp meat. Combine heads and shells with half of the chopped onion, all the carrots, celery, the bay leaf and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast in oven for 20 minutes.

      In a large stockpot, place roasted vegetables along with the heads and shells in 1 quart of hot water. Add the thyme, oregano and parsley. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain broth into a container discarding the solids.

      In the same stockpot, if you wish, cook bacon until crisp. Drain bacon on paper towels. Sauté remaining onion and green pepper in the bacon fat for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add rice and cook until rice is transparent, about 5 minutes. Season with the red crushed pepper. Add tomatoes, salt, parsley, and 2 1⁄2 cups shrimp broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer covered for 20 minutes adding more stock if rice begins to get dry.

      Add shrimp to the rice, cover, and cook another 10 minutes. Stir in the bacon and serve with crusty French bread and a side salad.


      1. I am so loving this with the red pepper, the added heat always is the perfect flavoring with shell fish...I know I could eat this every day~

      2. Another great Shrimp Pilau recipe Drick! Now I want some of this, and it's just 9:00 am over here.

        Bon appetit!

      3. Seafood pilau is one of my favourites. The aroma is too good.

      4. Hi Drick, This dish is really making me hungry. I can taste it just by looking at the picture.

      5. This shrimp pilau sounds super delicious, I would love to try!

      6. I need a towel to wipe the drool off the screen. This sounds and looks soooo good.

      7. Both your recipe and your blog look amazing! Your photograph is making me hungry!

      8. oooh goodness. this looks and sounds absolutely delicious. my mouth is watering and counting down the days until we visit daniel's family in pensacola and get some good seafood!

      9. I love the background...what shrimp dish? I want to be at the beach right now!

      10. I could eat this every single day!!

      11. I adoooooore the combo of spices in this!

      12. This shrimp looks absolutely fabulous and I'm putting it on my "must try" list! Love the herbs and seasonings!

      13. my mom loves Pilau, bookmarked for when she visits again..



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