seafood: saffron shrimp risotto

Saffron: expensive and exotic. The saffron crocus produces the world’s most costly spice. Saffron is expensive for good reason. It takes approximately 70,000 saffron crocus flowers to produce 5 pounds of stigmas which are the deep red tips that collect pollen grains within the crocus flower. The 5 pounds of stigmas then must dry in order to produce 1 pound of saffron. Because the stigmas are so delicate they must be harvested by hand and this must be done on the same day that the crocus begins to open.

Today, most saffron is harvested in Iran or Spain. However the origins of the spice come from Greece or Mediterranean areas in the vicinity around the Bronze Age. The spice, like most spices, traveled trade routes to the Indian subcontinent around 500 BCE. It traveled via Arab merchants to Spain and by Crusaders who introduced it to France and England.

Saffron’s color comes from carotenoid pigments. These pigments are water soluble making them a strong coloring agent. The word saffron has a few possible origins, but all said and done, these original names all refer to the yellow pigmentation. For instance there is an Arabic word (asfar) meaning “yellow” or a Persian word meaning “having golden stigmas”.

Saffron is slightly bitter in flavor and is best added later in the cooking process as it is heat activated. Its flavor lends itself to a variety of combinations, however fish and saffron work very well together as anyone who has eaten paella can attest. Saffron added to rice or risotto makes a beautiful presentation.

The saffron and shrimp risotto can be presented quite nicely for an appetizer or used for a tasting party. It is also so easy that it is a go to recipe for a large gathering or family meal, perfect for last minute dinners or pot lucks.

Saffron Risotto with Shrimp: from The Professional Chef
Note: This recipe is easy so don’t fret about the exact measurements. It is so simple to adjust the flavoring to your own desires. Do, however, follow the stock/rice measurements to ensure a perfectly textured risotto.

Ingredients
2 ½ pts fish stock or chicken stock
Pinch of saffron
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
4oz minced onions
3oz clarified butter
¼ oz garlic
14oz Arborio rice
10oz diced shrimp or 2 dozen shrimp (whole)
Parsley (optional)
2 oz whole butter

1. Bring the stock and saffron to a simmer and season with salt and pepper.
2. Sweat the onions in the butter until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and continue to sauté until aromatic.
3. Add the rice and mix thoroughly with the butter. Cook, continually stirring, until a toasted aroma rises.
4. Add 1/3 of the stock to the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice has absorbed the stock. Repeat.
5. With the last 1/3 of stock add the shrimp and finish the risotto until the rice is tender and the shrimp is cooked.
6. Remove from the heat and stir in parsley, butter and a little more salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

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53 comments

  • September 15, 2011 at 2:39 pm //

    I love saffron and try to keep a small amount on hand. This dish sounds amazing!

    • September 19, 2011 at 5:45 pm //

      Thank you!!!

  • September 15, 2011 at 2:56 pm //

    Looks simple but elegant, delicious recipe. I’ll be making this weekend.

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:51 pm //

      Thank you so much Raquel, let us know if you give it a try = )

  • September 15, 2011 at 4:26 pm //

    These look absolutely scrumptious! Love that saffron infused color.

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm //

      Thank you Amy = )

  • September 15, 2011 at 5:03 pm //

    I love risottos (I have plenty of risotto recipes on my blog :D), and this looks amazing!

  • September 15, 2011 at 11:09 pm //

    A bite wouldn’t make a difference to my diet. Would it? Oh, this rice looks delicious. The saffron adds that beautiful color…

    • September 19, 2011 at 5:46 pm //

      Hi there, oh, I think a bite here or there in moderation would be okay = ) I’m counting calories myself, so it’s a nibble here and there for me.

  • September 16, 2011 at 12:42 am //

    Baking with saffron is wonderful – I don’t do much savoury cooking with it though, it’s insanely expensive. I was reading a recipe once which said I should use “5g of Saffron”… that would have cost me €80 to buy! Beautiful dish – perfect sized portions too!

    • September 19, 2011 at 5:47 pm //

      Hi Charles, It is expensive Charles, that is pretty expensive for Saffron (in the UK)?

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm //

      Thank you so much Emily.

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm //

      Thank you so much Rosemary.

  • September 16, 2011 at 4:29 am //

    Beautiful photos. I’ve always loved seafood risotto and combined that, with saffron flavors. Very spanish and indian inspired :)

    BTW, thanks for dropping by my blog :)

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:50 pm //

      Hi Kiran, and thank you for coming by to say hello, I quite love fusion based dishes = )

  • September 16, 2011 at 10:21 am //

    Oh how beautiful everything looks. :) I have to admin I’ve never tried risotto but you make it look so easy. :)

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:49 pm //

      Oh Jo, you must give it a try, please let us know if you do, and your thoughts on it. Thank you for commenting.

  • September 16, 2011 at 6:35 pm //

    I want this for dinner tonight…seriously. The color of your risotto is so golden and perfect – just the right amount of saffron :)

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:49 pm //

      Thank you so much Lisa.

  • September 16, 2011 at 7:28 pm //

    This recipe sound great,i’m sure taste good as its looks,beautiful presentation :)

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm //

      Thank you so much Ridwan.

  • September 17, 2011 at 2:53 am //

    Gorgeous photo–that could be served in a high-quality restaurant!

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm //

      Thank you so much Cucina49!

  • September 17, 2011 at 3:36 am //

    That looks exquisite. Perfect for fall with the rich color of the saffron.

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:48 pm //

      I can’t believe fall is just around the bend Kimberley. Thank you so much for commenting.

  • September 17, 2011 at 4:14 am //

    This sounds amazing! I love risotto and shrimp….excellent combination!

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm //

      Thank you so much Ravie.

  • September 17, 2011 at 9:37 pm //

    Such a lovely flavor!

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm //

      Thank you Dewi, such a beautiful name.

  • September 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm //

    awwww…i’ve never tried working with saffron before…this sounds amazing and looks absolutely delicious!

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm //

      I definitely recommend give it a try someone, you’ll love it.

  • September 18, 2011 at 6:22 am //

    I have never actually cooked anything with saffron. I was too cheap when I was a grad student to buy the stuff! :) I’ll have to give this a try, after I head out to the spice market!

    • September 19, 2011 at 5:50 pm //

      Hi Vicki, I think we’ve all been down that road before, grad school is expensive, hey I lived off of mac & cheese, salads and sandwiches. It’s nice to be able to splurge now (in moderation).

  • September 18, 2011 at 8:31 am //

    I’m always looking for new seafood recipes. This looks amazing. Can’t wait to try it!

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:47 pm //

      Thank you Baltic Maid!

  • September 18, 2011 at 7:58 pm //

    This sounds so yummy, and the photos are fantastic! I’ve only recently started cooking with saffron and I love it. It’s a shame it’s so darn expensive!

    • September 19, 2011 at 5:49 pm //

      Hi Nicole, it is so darn expensive, isn’t it? It’s truly something that I use sparingly.

  • September 18, 2011 at 10:33 pm //

    I love Saffron! It is without a doubt my favourite spice. I tried it for the first time in Italy and feel in love. I will with out a doubt try this once back from holiday x

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm //

      Please let us know if you give the recipe a try = )

  • September 18, 2011 at 11:03 pm //

    I adore a good risotto. This looks amazing. Beautiful presentation and the color from that saffron! Stunning!

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:46 pm //

      Thank you so much Beth!

  • September 19, 2011 at 12:35 am //

    Risottos are always one of my favorite meals. It’s such a warm and comforting dish. Your shrimp risotto sounds wonderful and the saffron must give it a nice kick!

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm //

      Mine too Stephanie! Thank you so much for commenting.

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm //

      Thank you so much Russell!

  • September 19, 2011 at 9:35 am //

    What a gorgeous risotto. I love saffron risotto, it’s so decadent!

  • September 19, 2011 at 5:51 pm //

    Thank you all so much for the wonderful comments, we cherish each and every one of them!!!

  • September 20, 2011 at 5:13 am //

    This looks and sounds divine! Lovely colors from the saffron and the shrimp, I am craving risotto right about now! Thanks for sharing :)

    • September 20, 2011 at 6:45 pm //

      Thank you Nora!

  • September 21, 2011 at 1:16 am //

    Wow, such a lovely dish! I love how the colors just pop, and it sounds so delicious.

  • September 28, 2011 at 10:06 pm //

    Amazing pictures. Mouth-watering recipe!