While Phyllis and I were on our five hour drive back from Milledgeville and enjoying the culinary wonders of Truck Stop 44, her husband Art was preparing Charleston Shrimp Perloo and setting the table for seven, to include two couples with whom they’ve become friends. Our homecoming culminated in a lively dinner party.
I think you could cut out some of the prep time for this dish by using prepared seafood or shrimp stock, but as we entered the house and smelled the simmering stock made from scratch, I think it’s not a shortcut you want to take. This dish is spectacular — add a green salad, some good bread and a nice chilled dry white wine, and you have the best of a Low Country dinner. Art says the smart thing is to have all your ingredients chopped and ready before you start making the dish, so the cooking unfolds smoothly and the flavors blend as they are supposed to.
If you like to cook and can get wonderful fresh shrimp in the shell, this is your dish.
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds large shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved
2 onions chopped
4 celery ribs, chopped
Salt and pepper
6 cups water
1 tablespoon peppercorns
5 sprigs fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 green bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped
2 cups long-grained white rice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. minced fresh thyme
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 [14.5 ounce] can diced tomatoes
Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add shrimp shells, 1 cup onion, 1/2 cup celery, and 1 tsp. salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until shells are spotty brown — about 10 minutes. Add water, peppercorns, parsley, and bay leaves. Increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain shrimp stock through fine-mesh strainer set over large bowl, pressing solids to extract as much liquid as possible, then discard solids.
Melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in Dutch oven over medium heat. Add bell pepper, remaining onion and celery, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until vegetables are beginning to soften — 5-7 minutes. Add rice, garlic, thyme, and cayenne and cook until fragrant and rice is translucent, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and their juice and 3 cups shrimp stock [reserve remainder until end of prep] and bring to boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
Gently fold shrimp into rice until evenly distributed, cover, and continue to cook 5 minutes longer. Remove pot from heat and let sit, covered, until shrimp are cooked through and all liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Add remaining stock and heat until warm. Serve.