Crispy Shrimp Risotto Fake Out

I’m a big believer in the ol’ saying, “If life gives you lemons, you make lemonade.” I often spring it on my children when something hasn’t gone the way they were hoping, and they roll their eyes at me.

One lemon that life keeps giving me over and over again is burnt rice. About one out of every three times I make sushi rice, I space out and forget to turn it off and it burns.

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out

If it isn’t too burned, I’m able to salvage most of the rice and it has a nice woodsy nutty smoked taste that works well with sushi. Also if it’s not too burned, the “burnt” part comes off with a wrist twist of the spatula in crusty golden brown strips. If you put it in a 200 degree oven for 40 or so minutes, it dries out and becomes the hard stuff the Chinese fry to drop into sizzling rice.

Sometimes I make sizzling rice soup with my previous rice failures. Everyone loves sizzling rice soup.

I happened to burn some rice the other day. And scooped out the crusty brown rice at the bottom. I dried it as usual, but wasn’t planning any sizzling rice soup anytime soon. I was, however, having our new neighbors, Chase and Brandon, and a few other friends over for an Italian dinner, and wondered if I could make something Italian with the crunchy fried rice instead. And then it hit me, a bolt of inspiration: crispy shrimp risotto fake out!

The dinner party

The dinner party

What exactly is/was crispy shrimp risotto fake out? I was making it up as I went along. Inspired, perhaps, by Massimo Bottura’s deconstruction of classic Italian dishes, I considered the elements of a traditional Venetian risotto — rice simmered in a stock, often seafood, a healthy bit of saffron, finished with butter or cream and parmesan cheese. How could I do a riff on that with my crusty cakes of burnt rice?

I took some frozen shrimp and fish stock out of the freezer. When the shrimp had defrosted, I shelled and flattened them out with the blade of my knife to simulate scampi, and set the shells to a simmer in a small saucepan with the fish stock. To this I added celery tops, a bay leaf, a shot of Sambuca (any anise-flavored liqueur would do), saffron and some white wine, and simmered it down to half a cup. Once I’d strained the sauce, in went a splash of cream and a little chunk of butter, and we were all set. The rice I fried to a puffy crispness, the shrimp I gave a quick pan grilling with a dot of butter.

The result — the crispy rice topped with a pan-grilled shrimp and drizzled with a little sauce — was playful and delicious, and captured accurately the flavors of a Venetian seafood risotto. A successful fake out!

So next time you burn the rice (life gives you lemons), don’t throw it out — get creative (make lemonade)!


*    *    *

Crispy shrimp risotto fake out!
serves 4

1 cup short grained rice
2 cups water
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups stock (fish or chicken)
3 or 4 celery tops
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp. saffron
1 oz. Sambuca or other anise liqueur
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp. grass-fed butter
4 jumbo shrimp (or 8 medium to large shrimp), clean and deveined, shells reserved

*Note: burned, dehydrated rice can be made weeks or months in advance and stored in the cupboard in a plastic bag.

Rinse rice several times in cold water. Place rice and water in a medium saucepan over high heat and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and cook for 6 minutes. Return heat to high and cook for another 5 minutes, allowing rice to begin to burn to the bottom of the pan. Remove from heat and let cool.

The rice that is not burned you can reserve for another purpose (sushi, beans and rice, etc.). Scoop out, leaving bottom 1/2 inch of “burned” rice in the pan. (The non-burned rice should separate fairly easily from the burned part.) With a spatula, scoop out the burned rice in as large of sections as you can. Place on a piece of foil in a 200 degree oven and leave there until completely dried out (usually about an hour or so).

Heat vegetable oil in a wok or small saucepan over medium high heat until it begins to smoke slightly. Drop in chunks of dehydrated rice and cook quickly, turning once, until puffed. Remove to drain on paper towels, and continue until all rice has been cooked this way.

In a small saucepan, heat the stock and reserved shrimp shells over medium high heat until it begins to simmer. Add celery tops, bay leaf, liqueur and white wine and simmer at a low boil for about 45 minutes to an  hour, until reduced by 3/4s. Add saffron, cook another minute or two, and remove from heat. Strain.

Return the sauce to the saucepan and place back over medium high heat. Add the cream.

While sauce is heating, place a skillet on high heat and add 1 tbsp. butter. Quickly sear the shrimp, tossing once or twice, for one minute, until firm and translucent. Remove from heat.

When sauce has reached the thickness that it easily coats a wooden spoon, remove from heat and stir in butter.

Arrange plates: Place some fried rice on the plate, top with a shrimp (or two, if using smaller shrimp), and drizzle sauce over and around.

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. timoirish34
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 00:51:52

    SC–I’ve burned so much rice in my life, I’ve lately considered breaking down and buying an electric rice cooker, but that’s a big step. I guess I treasure my failures too much to abandon them. I have never used Sambuca (or anything like it) in cooking, but I’m eager to try


  2. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 01:09:48

    Great save Sean!!! Bravo…Cheryl


  3. Ben
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 01:38:17

    Of course there is always the wonderful concept of socarrat that exists in some Mediterranean rice dishes, and Americans have such a weak grasp of. But when it forms perfectly, it’s really good. That’s what you’re post made me think of was a de facto socarrat. I actually aim for some crusty rice too, when I make fried rice. I don’t think it’s authentic in Asian cuisine, but who cares, it’s delicious. (Sorry I’ve been AWOL. New career and new kid kind of took over my life, leaving me very little blogging time.)


    • scolgin
      Sep 25, 2015 @ 02:44:58

      Well first of all, NEW KID!??? Congratulations dude. Send me a pic! You’re right about the soccarat, which is of course a key component to a well-executed paella. It’s around the same burn level as that, except with plain rice — which doesn’t add a heck of a lot to plain rice. But boy once you dry and fry it, you’ve got something!


  4. Ant Patty
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 02:23:55

    I must say – I was one of those “other friends” eating at the Colgin’s and boy did I enjoy this crispy shrimp dish. What I want to know is how you burn the rice on purpose to get this wonderful crispy rice??


    • scolgin
      Sep 25, 2015 @ 02:42:47

      It requires deliberate negligence. I offer instructions in the recipe. But you can just space out and ignore the rice in any fashion you’d like, and that would work too.


  5. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 02:42:16

    Hey Sean Duh? I forget too mention to you, I started a new website for Food Bloggers, an easy concept linking directly to your blog. Check out when you get a minute or thread through my main web site to view “Participating Food Blogs”-Post. We loveeeee to have you join us! It is worldwide. UK, India, Germany, Australia, Netherlands, USA, Italy to name a few. If interested in joining us let me know. Best Regards, from sunny Florida. Cheryl


  6. Cheryl "Cheffie Cooks" Wiser
    Sep 25, 2015 @ 02:42:32



  7. Michelle
    Sep 29, 2015 @ 10:09:05

    Sounds delicious. Though I have to say: I hate stupid gadgets, too, but the rice cooker is worth every bit of space it takes up.


  8. Trackback: I Burned the Rice | skinny girls & mayonnaise

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