Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Shrimp Risotto With Saffron and Peas

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Or...What to do when you have less shrimp than you thought you had!

Risottos are easy...they just take more time and love than you might have to give at the time.  If you have guests for an informal dinner AND you have an island in your kitchen with stools on one side they are fun to make while you cook and your guests watch. It's better too if  you and your guests have cocktails in hand! The periodic stirring of the rice seems to mesmerize everybody to the point that nobody cares when dinner will be served. So if you are refraining from making a risotto because it's a last minute thing, don't.  Just know when to serve it and that is when good friends are the guests.

Risottos are also a good idea when someone drops in unexpectedly and whatever you had planned for dinner is just not enough.  Such was the case for this risotto. What had been originally planned as  Shrimp Scampi with rice for two suddenly turned into this delightful risotto for four, very similar to the Spanish Arroz Con Camarones, yet a bit more upscale.

Use the shrimp shells to make a subtle shellfish broth for the risotto. Make sure you don’t overcook the shrimp; they will take only four to five minutes to cook, and the contrast of their succulent texture against the chewy rice will be lost if the shrimp become rubbery.

I did not add peas this time but included them in the recipe as an afterthought.


1 pound medium shrimp, in the shell
6 cups fish stock, OR chicken stock or water 
Salt to taste
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2  cups arborio or carnaroli rice
2 large garlic cloves, green shoots removed, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
A generous pinch of saffron (optional)
1 cup thawed frozen peas, or fresh peas steamed for five minutes (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste


1. Shell the shrimp and de-vein if necessary. Salt them lightly, and set aside in a bowl (in the refrigerator, if you won’t be making and serving the risotto right away). Rinse the shells, and combine them with 6 cups of water or lite chicken broth in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, skim off foam, reduce the heat to low and simmer partly covered for 30 minutes. Strain. If you are using fish stock just bring it to a boil,  taste, add enough salt to make a well seasoned broth and bring to a simmer in a saucepan.

2. Heat 2 TB butter over medium heat in a large nonstick frying pan or a large, wide saucepan. Add the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onion softens, three to five minutes, and then add the rice and the garlic. Cook, stirring, until the grains of rice are separate and beginning to crackle. Add the saffron and cook for a minute.

3. Stir in the wine, and cook over medium heat, stirring. The wine should bubble, but not too quickly. You want some of the flavor to cook into the rice before it evaporates. When the wine has just about evaporated, stir in a ladleful or two of the simmering stock, enough to just cover the rice. The stock should bubble slowly.

Cook, stirring often, until it is almost absorbed. Add another couple of ladles of the stock. Continue to cook, stirring often — not too fast and not too slowly, adding more stock when the rice is almost dry — for 20 minutes.

4. Taste a bit of the rice. It should taste chewy but not hard in the middle. Continue adding simmering stock and stirring until the rice reaches this al dente stage. Stir in more stock to cover, add the peas and lay the shrimp on top of the rice.  Cover for a minute. Uncover and stir, for another four to five minutes, until the shrimp are pink and cooked through but still moist and the peas are bright. Stir in the parsley and another small ladle of stock, remove from the heat, add pepper,  and 1 TB butter. Stir  and serve.


Yield: Serves 4.

Advance preparation: The shrimp can be peeled and the broth can be made several hours before you wish to cook the risotto.

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