I made this dish on a recent cold and rainy weekday evening after work ran over an hour later than usual. It's rare to find a recipe that is elegant enough for a dinner party but just as practical to make for a fast weeknight dinner. I nominate this meal, as you can serve it as rustically (straight from the pan) or elegantly as you'd like and can count on it coming together in less than 25 minutes, creating next to nothing to clean up later. I didn't even use a cutting board. The secret is that the whole meal cooks in one pan, the ingredients are quick-cooking, and the only prep work required before starting the cooking process is to push some garlic through a garlic press. This is a great pantry meal to have on file, assuming you keep a few lemons and garlic in your fridge. And you can pick up the shrimp the day of or keep some in the freezer for times like these.
When we eat fish, I have three rules of thumb that generally guide my decision on what to buy: sustainability, mercury level, and a preference for wild-caught versus farmed. Look for this certified sustainable seal, or something similar, next to the fish if buying fresh, or directly on the package if buying frozen. If the fish is wild-caught, it should also say on the label. Additionally use this and this reference if you're curious to read about mercury levels in fish.
Bulgur and Shrimp Skillet
Inspired by A Couple Cooks
Notes: You want medium or course grade bulgur for this recipe. If the package says it will cook in approximately 15 minutes, you have the right grade. You don't want fine bulgur that steams in just a few minutes. I use passata here but crushed tomatoes would also be great or diced tomatoes, quickly crushed/pureed using a hand blender or food processor.
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced with garlic press
2 tsp. dried thyme (or Herbs de Provence)
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 cups bulgur
1 680 g (~30 oz or 2 3/4 cups) jar passata
1 1/2 - 2 cups water
1 - 1 1/2 tsp. salt
200 grams medium shrimp, shelled and deveined
Basil, to finish
Parmesan shavings, to finish
Heat olive oil in a large saute pan with sides over medium-low heat. Add garlic, thyme, lemon, and red pepper flakes. Stir to coat in oil and cook gently for a minute, until fragrant.
Deglaze pan with balsamic vinegar. It should simmer and reduce after just a few seconds. Then add bulgur and stir around to coat in flavored oil and vinegar. Toast for a minute until it starts to smell nutty, then add passata, 1 1/2 cups water, and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally so bottom does not stick, until bulgur is almost cooked through. If it's dry or the bottom is starting to stick, add another 1/2 cup water. You want a loose risotto-like sauce. Taste mixture at this point and adjust for seasoning, adding more salt if necessary.
Place shrimp on top of bulgur, season shrimp with salt and pepper, cover and cook for another 7-8 minutes, until shrimp are pink and cooked through. Squeeze lemon over shrimp, tear basil and scatter around, and serve. Pass parmesan to shave at the table.