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.
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)
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.