(Creamy Rice with Shrimp and Hearts-of-Palm)
Photo and Text by Cynthia Presser.
Velvety and creamy, with flavors of sweet shrimp and tangy hearts-of-palm, and just a hint of citrus, this recipe is one that I am proud to have created from scratch. I try to always solely post recipes that are delicious and, also, relate to my background; but occasionally, I dare to say that I created a simply incredibly flavorful dish, that also reflects some of the most amazing tastes of Brazilian cuisine. This time, it is the case. I am not going to call my Creamy Rice with Shrimp and Hearts-of-Palm an easy recipe – it involves many steps, but they are all very achievable. I promise it is not difficult. Here is what I am begging you: MAKE THIS! YOU WILL LOVE IT! Serves 8 to 10
8 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cups Jasmine rice
3 ¾ cups water
Béchamel Sauce Ingredients:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons flour
2 cups whole milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon (or to taste) freshly grounded nutmeg
2 pounds medium-large shrimp, cleaned, deveined, tails removedSalt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil1 large onion, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds shrimp, cleaned, deveined, tails removed
8 ounces hearts-of-palm, drained and sliced
Zest of 1 large lemon
¼ cup scallions, chopped
¼ cup flat-leaf-parsley, chopped (save a bit for garnishing)
8 ounces Catupiry* (See cook’s note)
Directions for Rice:
Melt butter in a medium pot set over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent; 5 to 6 minutes. Add rice and stir well to coat. Add water and 1 teaspoon of salt (or to taste) and stir to combine. Once it comes to a boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook, without disturbing the pot, for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the water has been completely absorbed. Remove from heat and allow pot to rest, covered, for at least 10 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork, and set aside.
Directions for Béchamel Sauce: Melt butter in a small sauce pan set over medium heat. Once butter starts foaming, slowly add the flour (1 tablespoon at a time) whisking it vigorously until it turns golden brown; 3 to 4 minutes. Turn heat down to medium-low and very slowly add the milk, while whisking it vigorously. Keep whisking until sauce thickens; about 10 minutes. Stir in salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Remove from heat and set aside.
Directions for Shrimp: Place shrimp in a colander and rinse under gentle cold water. Using paper towels or a kitchen cloth, gently pat dry. Place shrimp on large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add olive oil to a large skillet set over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook until soft, stirring occasionally; about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic and cook for an extra minute. Turn heat to high and add the shrimp. Cook until they turn pink; about 2 minutes. Turn heat to medium and mix in hearts-of-palm, lemon zest, scallions, and parsley just until heated through; about 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
Assemblage: Place the oven top rack about 6 inches from top. Preheat broiler to high. Place half of the rice on the bottom of a large, oven-proof, baking pan or casserole. Spread half of the Catupiry (or the alternative cream cheese) over the rice.
Transfer to oven and broil for about a minute or two, just until it starts to melt. Remove. Cover the pan with the remaining rice, spreading it on an even layer; then drizzle with the béchamel sauce. Cover with the shrimp and hearts-of-palm, and randomly spoon small portions of the Catupiry on top (use a teaspoon for the job). Return pan to oven. Broil just until the Catupiry starts turning gold and lightly charred on top; about 1 ½ to 2 minutes. Remove from oven and garnish with parsley. Serve immediately.
Catupiry is Brazilian style cream cheese. It has a nutty, richer flavor, if compared to regular cream cheese (which has a slight tang finish). Catupiry can be found at Latin and International markets, or at Amazon. If you are unable to find it, mascarpone or regular cream cheese can serve as substitutes.