Smoky Shrimp with Lemony Orzo, Green Olives & Feta

July  3, 2019
1 Ratings
Photo by Johnny Autry
  • Prep time 20 minutes
  • Cook time 10 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

When it comes to grilling shrimp, I don’t like to futz around with skewers because flipping them can be tricky. Instead, I prefer to grill shrimp in a preheated grill basket (with small vents that minimize moisture loss) or better yet, a cast-iron skillet or paella pan that retains all of the flavorful juices. I pour marinated shrimp onto a preheated surface, then use long-handled tongs to shake the skillet every now and then, flip the shrimp, and move the pan away from the heat to avoid flare-ups. The main objective is to keep the shrimp moving so they cook quickly and evenly. This lightly charred shrimp is a natural partner for orzo flavored with lemon zest, grilled lemons, crumbled feta, and olives.

If you prefer to grill directly on the grates, use jumbo shrimp so they’re easier to turn.

Reprinted with permission from Thank You for Smoking: Fun and Fearless Recipes Cooked with a Whiff of Wood Fire on Your Grill or Smoker by Paula Disbrowe, copyright © 2019. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

Photography copyright: Johnny Autry © 2019 —Paula Disbrowe

What You'll Need
  • 2 pounds (900 g) large shrimp, peeled and deveined, without tails
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 pinch kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano or marjoram
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 12 ounces (340 g) orzo
  • 2 lemons
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced, or 1⁄2 chopped red onion
  • 1/2 cup (45 g) green olives (any variety), kalamata olives, or oil-cured olives
  • 8 ounces (225 g) crumbled feta cheese
  1. Place the shrimp in a large mixing bowl, drizzle with enough olive oil to lightly coat, season generously with salt and pepper, and toss to combine. Add the oregano, thyme, and red pepper flakes and toss again, then set aside to marinate at room temperature while you prepare the grill.
  2. Prepare a charcoal grill for two-zone cooking and build a medium-high fire, or heat a gas grill to high.
  3. When the coals are glowing red and covered with a fine gray ash, add your smoke source (chips, chunks, or log** SEE NOTE BELOW). Carefully wipe the preheated grill grates with a lightly oiled paper towel. Using a grill brush, scrape the grill grates clean, then carefully wipe with a lightly oiled towel again and place a cast-iron skillet or grill basket over direct heat.
  4. While the grill heats, bring a large pot of generously salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook according to the package instructions until al dente (tender but still firm). Drain the orzo in a colander, rinse it briefly, then transfer it to a mixing bowl. Drizzle the pasta with enough olive oil to lightly coat and toss to combine (this will help prevent the pasta from sticking).
  5. Finely grate the zest from 1 lemon and add it to the orzo. Halve both of the lemons horizontally (from stem end to the blossom end).
  6. When the fire begins to produce a steady stream of smoke, pour the shrimp into the preheated skillet and cook, flipping the shrimp and rotating the pan around the heat (closing the lid in between to make the most of the wood smoke) until just cooked (they will turn opaque and be firm and springy to the touch), 5 to 6 minutes total. Remove the pan from the heat and let the shrimp cool briefly.
  7. Brush the cut sides of the lemons with olive oil and grill the citrus cut-side down over direct heat until dark char marks appear, 2 to 3 minutes.
  8. Add the warm shrimp and any juices to the orzo and toss to combine. Add about 1⁄3 cup (80 ml) olive oil, the green onions, olives, and feta and toss gently to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more salt or pepper as desired. Divide the pasta and shrimp among bowls and serve warm or at room temperature with the grilled lemon halves. Refrigerate any leftovers in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
  9. **NOTE: Smoking is where the magic happens. Incorporating hardwood in any of the following forms creates a stream of aromatic smoke to infuse whatever you're cooking. If you're using a gas grill, your only option is to rey on wood chips (soaked in water beforehand so they'll slowly smolder) placed in a smoker box or foil packet that's placed directly on the grates over a flame. You can also use soaked chips in a charcoal grill, either wrapped in a foil packet or scattered directly on the coals. Chips burn much more quickly than wood chunks, so consider the latter for recipes that require longer cook times. I love wood chunks because I can place a couple directly on a bed of hot coals (no soaking required), where they'll light quickly and smolder steadily, and they're easy to move with tongs if I need to balance the heat. Wood chunks are a great way to build heat if your temperature begins to drop midway through cooking and you don't have hot coals at the ready. Once the chunks ignite, you can control the speed at which they burn by moving them around the fire and venting your grill to control the amount of air the fire is receiving.

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  • Brinda Ayer
    Brinda Ayer
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    Sharon in DC
Paula Disbrowe writes frequently about Food and Travel. She lives in Austin, Texas, with her bread baker husband David Norman, two children, and menagerie of retired ranch animals.

2 Reviews

Sharon I. July 8, 2019
In reading the recipe, I was intrigued by the combo of flavors. But I live in a large apartment complex with no wherewithal for grilling, and haven't found a suburban friend to cook with who is as enthusiastic as I am about the recipe. Is there another way? If not, I'd simply like to make it without the smoking. Are there any upgrades to the recipe that might improve it if smokeless? Thanks for your help!
Brinda A. July 11, 2019
Hi Sharon! You can try to do this on a grill pan indoors, or even roast the shrimp under the broiler—you'll miss out on a bit of the smoky flavor, but the rest of the dish will be just lovely. For more smokiness, you can perhaps try adding smoked salt to the dish, or a spice like smoked paprika or chipotle chile powder. Let me know if you end up trying it this way, and how it turns out!