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8 & $20: Smoky Paprika Shrimp With Saffron-Lemon Pilaf

Albariño pairs well with this dish inspired by Spanish flavors
Photo by: Greg Hudson
A Spanish white wine with generous fruit and minerality balances the layers of complex flavors in this dish.

Nicole Ruiz Hudson
Posted: April 28, 2015

Eight ingredients, plus pantry staples. That's all it takes to make an entire meal from scratch. Add in a good bottle of wine for less than $20, and you've got a feast for family or friends. That's the philosophy behind our "8 & $20" feature. We hope it adds pleasure to your table.

I love pimentón ahumado.

I tend to keep a few different versions of paprika around, but the smoked Spanish version is a personal favorite and a secret weapon in my cooking arsenal. I find the slightly sweet, earthy flavors of this seasoning to be warm and comforting while simultaneously whisking me off to faraway places. It also creates a richness in dishes that gives the illusion of meatiness, even when no meat is present.

This dish was born one night when I set out to make a Spanish tapas staple, gambas al ajillo (garlic shrimp), and couldn’t resist dousing it with a generous helping of pimentón ahumado. This version also borrows a note from the Italian shrimp fra diavolo by incorporating tomatoes into the mix.

The shrimp take less than 10 minutes to prepare and can be served in a variety of ways. They’re delicious on pasta or served simply as an appetizer with crusty bread to soak up the sauce. Here I’ve paired them with a saffron-lemon rice pilaf, which brings both brightness and added complexity to the dish. Saffron may seem like an expensive ingredient, but it can easily be substituted or amplified by turmeric, and a little of either ingredient goes a long way. The result is a dish with exotic touches that comes together quickly.

When choosing a wine, I wanted something that would be complementary and refreshing. The dish has many notes in play, so the wine needed to have considerable fruit to mesh well with the spices, in addition to some minerality and texture to stand up to the seafood and pilaf. I decided to look at white wines from the countries whose cuisines inspired the dish—Spain and Italy.

First up was a Falanghina from Irpinia in Italy’s Campania region. On its own, this wine had a combination of bright acidity, pleasant minerality and a hint of creaminess to the texture—everything I was looking for. However, when tasted with the shrimp, the flavor components seemed clumsy and disjointed.

Next up was a Godello from Valdeorras in Galicia, Spain. The wine had a hint of smoke, with a lovely combination of citrus, melon and stone fruit flavors complemented by a rich, lush mouthfeel. The weight and flavors of this wine matched the dish quite well.

The final wine was an Albariño from Rías Baixas, which is also in Galicia, just slightly closer to the coast. This place of origin seemed to come out in the wine: In addition to the broad texture and generous fruit, it also had a touch of sea breeze, which echoed the seafood flavors beautifully, making it the night's winner.

Smoky Shrimp Paprika With Saffron-Lemon Pilaf


Pair with a Spanish white such as Bodegas Pazo de Barrantes Albariño Rias Baixas 2013 (89 points, $20) or Bodegas Godeval Valdeorras Viña Godeval Cepas Vellas 2013 (92 points, $20).


Total time: 45 minutes
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Approximate food cost: $25

  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic (1-2 cloves minced, 5-6 cloves thinly sliced)
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • Pinch of saffron (turmeric can be used as a substitute or supplement)
  • 1 lemon, zested (only a pinch is needed) and juiced
  • 2 cups water (chicken stock may be substituted)
  • 1 pound shrimp
  • 1 teaspoon pimentón ahumado (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 16 ounces cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the diced onion and sweat until translucent and soft, about 3 minutes. Season with salt, add the minced garlic and continue to sweat for another minute.

2. Add the rice, saffron (and/or turmeric) and a pinch of the lemon zest and toss with the onion mixture until well-coated. Continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.

3. Add the water (or stock if using) and incorporate with the rice-onion mixture. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the liquid is fully absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Fluff with a fork and season with additional salt if needed. Remove from heat, cover and set aside.

4. Heat the sliced garlic in a small amount of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat for about 1 minute, or until the garlic is just becoming fragrant. Add the cherry tomatoes, smoked paprika and enough olive oil to reach about one-third of the way up the tomatoes. (Note: Depending on the size of your pan, you may not need the full amount.) Gently poach the tomatoes in the olive oil for another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.

5. Stir in the lemon juice, then add the shrimp to the oil and cook gently (making sure the oil does not go above a simmer) until the shrimp is pink and no longer translucent, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Once cooked through, remove the shrimp from heat.

6. Place a bed of the saffron-lemon rice pilaf on each plate, top with the shrimp and tomatoes, and drizzle some of the remaining smoked paprika oil over them. Serves 4, with medium-sized portions.

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