Hangry waits for no one. Especially not Kendra Vaculin, our associate food editor. In Speedy Does It, her monthly column, she’s sharing whoa-worthy dinners you can get on the table like *snaps fingers* that.
There’s a lot to love about chicken, but for me, at the top of the list is its versatility. Chicken can be anything I need it to be, so on days when I don’t have a plan, I know the boneless, skinless breasts in my freezer are a good place to start. But in all my poultry fandom, sometimes I forget that shrimp is just as flexible.
Shrimp (which keeps just as well in the freezer, I say both to you and myself as a reminder) loves a rich, buttery moment as much as it does something bold and bracing. It’s happy on a room-temperature salad or piping hot from a pot; and it’s a friend to carbs everywhere, from rice to pasta to hot dog buns.
Most crucially, when I’m desperate for dinner on a weeknight, shrimp cooks rapidly. If chicken breasts are speedy, shrimp deserves a spot in Dominic Toretto’s family—it’s dangerously, potentially criminally fast (though with a heart of gold, of course).
If you’re relatively new to cooking shrimp at home, the best news of all is that you don’t have to gather a separate set of recipes or practice any specific techniques. Whatever flavors you usually apply to chicken can be pointed toward shrimp instead, in a fraction of the time. Read on for a few suggestions for shrimp-ifying your favorite chicken dish, including a new recipe that’ll take you from fridge to table in less than 30 minutes.
A stir-fry is quick-cooking by definition. With your pan set over high heat, you can build a sizzling combination of protein and vegetables in a hurry. Chopped chicken breasts or thighs are a common base ingredient, as in this miso and green bean stir-fry, this corn stir-fry, or this pepper kung pao chicken. By swapping in shrimp, you cut down the cook time even further. You’ll know the shrimp are cooked when they’re curled and just opaque.
All About the Sauce
If you have a favorite sauce to accompany chicken, chances are it would be great spooned over a plate of seared shrimp as well. This chicken picatta and this chicken with tadka-ish sauce call for chicken prepared in more intricate manners (floured cutlets and grilled, respectively), which you can overlook entirely. Instead, simply cook shrimp through in a bit of butter or oil, then toss with the sauce made just as directed.
Chicken—particularly bone-in cuts—lends itself well to being cooked in flavorful liquid until tender. Because shrimp cooks in a flash, recipes like this chicken puttanesca and this chicken scarpariello aren’t one-for-one swaps. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t get the crustacean treatment. Either sear off your shrimp first, then set them aside while you cook down the sauce before adding the shrimp back in at the end; or cook your shrimp directly in the sauce at the end of the cooking process—they’ll only need a few minutes.
Like chicken, shrimp gets along great with hearty accompaniments like rice and pasta. Consider tossing shrimp with day-old rice like in this crispy chicken with za’atar olive rice, or serving it atop a grain bowl with chile-garlic cucumbers. Same deal any place where grilled, seared, or shredded chicken would usually flourish.
Tiny Potatoes, Big Flavor
I love roasting a whole chicken on top of peewee potatoes, which take on the flavors of the chicken drippings as they cook. In this recipe, I speed up the process, without forgoing any richness, by swapping in shrimp. You’ll boil the potatoes until tender, then transfer them to a pan with a few heavy hitters (garlic, lemon, oregano, and capers—a foursome I usually love with chicken). It’s a dish so fast and complex tasting, you won’t miss the poultry one bit.
Winner, winner (shrimp) dinner: