Shrimp asparagus risotto: Creamy, saffron infused risotto, asparagus, shrimp, and parmesan cheese. Not a traditional recipe, but produces delicious results.
Like most home chefs you hear risotto and you instantly think about spending an hour standing over a hot stove constantly stirring. The arm cramps. The heat. The stiff back. The inability to get anything else done.
Before you click away, you should know that description does not fit this risotto. This risotto is creamy and flavorful, and requires about 1/3 of the stirring of a traditional risotto.
I know. I know. All the Italian grandmothers in the world are rolling over in their graves right now. Before you get upset, please understand that I’m not claiming this recipe to be authentic, I am only claiming that it works.
My method for risotto came about by pure accident caused in part by a bottle of wine and part by a great conversation with a good friend. Short story: I got distracted and walked away from the pan. By the time I remembered what I was doing, the risotto should have been ruined, but it wasn’t.
Instead, the liquid was absorbed and the rice looked ready for the next liquid addition, just like it would if I had stood there and stirred the whole time. What did I do different? I put the lid on the pan before I walked away. As a result, the liquid condensed on the lid and returned to the pan instead of evaporating. It keeps the top from drying out and requires a lot less work for you.
Mise en place, the French word for establishment, is key to getting this recipe right. In the cooking world the phrase means to have all of your ingredients prepped and ready to use. For this recipe:
Chop the onion, garlic, and asparagus; clean & devein shrimp, including removing from shells, then place back in the fridge until needed; gather all other ingredients along with proper measuring cups or spoons.
A 3 1/2 or 4 quart non-stick saute pan works great for this recipe, but a dutch oven or stainless steel saute pan would work as well. You also need a long handled mixing spoon or spatula to for the minimal stirring required. Heat the pan over a medium flame before adding the oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, salt, and pepper. Let the onions cook 2 – 3 minutes until they begin to soften. Add the garlic and stir for about a minute, until the garlic becomes fragrant.
Pour in the rice and begin to stir. It must be arborio rice – no brown rice or jasmine rice for this dish. Warning: this is the only part of the recipe where you do have to stir constantly. The point is to toast the rice, which you can’t do that by letting it sit and steam. It must keep moving. So grab that spoon and start to stir. In about 3 – 5 minutes, the rice will begin to brown slightly and the oil in the pan will absorb.
Now is where the fun, non-stirring part comes. Once the rice is toasted the first addition is the wine.
When it comes to cooking with wine there is only one hard rule: if you don’t like the way it tastes in your glass, don’t put it in your food. You don’t need expensive wine, but NEVER use something that is labeled “cooking wine”. It’s not fit to drink. Instead, find a wine that you enjoy, at a comfortable price, and use that. The wine in the dish usually makes a great pairing for the dinner table, so I chose a chardonnay that pairs well with shrimp and opened it early to use while cooking.
After adding the wine to the risotto drop the heat to medium low, stir and cover it. The first addition always absorbs the fastest. After 90 seconds come back and stir again. The rice should still be fairly liquid and quick to recover the bottom of the pan. If there is still liquid to absorb cover the pan and let it cook 90 seconds longer before checking again. You’ll know it’s time for the next addition when most of the liquid is absorbed and doesn’t flow back to cover the bottom of the pan after stirring.
The second addition is a cup of the stock and the saffron. Stir, cover, and wait 2 – 3 minutes. Stir and wait 2 – 3 minutes longer. Once you can again see the bottom of the pan after stirring, it’s time for more liquid. Continue adding the stock one cup at a time, stirring, covering, and waiting as you go.
When you get to the last addition of stock, cover and let cook for 2 minutes. It won’t be ready after two minutes, but we need the heat to cook the asparagus and melt the cheese. Add both to the top along with the cream – do not stir! Cover and drop heat to low and let it sit.
While the risotto finishes cooking, cook your shrimp. Heat the butter in a small frying pan over medium heat until it’s foamy. Add the shrimp, making sure that they have enough room in the pan to cook without touching. When they turn pink, flip them over and you should find a tasty crust starting to form. Let them continue to cook on the other side for 2 – 3 minutes longer.
Pour the shrimp and any remaining butter into the risotto. Stir to combine the now tender asparagus, melted cheese, and shrimp into the finished risotto. Before you serve it taste it and adjust the salt if needed.
Top each portion with a bit of shredded parmesan and a dusting of fresh or dried parsley. Pour the wine and enjoy!
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ½ red onion (aprox. 1 cup diced)
- 4 cloves garlic (aprox 4 tsp minced)
- 1¼ cup Arborio rice
- 1 cup white wine
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- ½ tsp saffron
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 9 - 12 stalks of asparagus - trimmed and chopped (aprox. ½ lb.)
- 12 -16 medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
- 1 tbsp butter
- ½ cup parmesan cheese + more for garnish
- 2 tbsp heavy cream or half & half
- parsley for garnish
- Heat a 4 quart saute pan or dutch oven, over medium heat.
- Add oil and heat for about a minute longer.
- Add onions, a pinch of salt, and a pinch of pepper. Saute 2 - 3 minutes or until they begin to soften.
- Add garlic and cook 1 minute longer, or until fragrant.
- Pour in rice and continue to cook, stirring constantly for 3 - 5 minutes or until rice begins to brown and oil is absorbed.
- Add wine, stir, cover, and drop heat to medium low. Cook for about 2 minutes.
- Stir, checking to see how much of the liquid remains. If there is still liquid to absorb, cover and let cook 2 more minutes before checking again. You will know its time to add more liquid when the bottom of the pan stays visible after stirring.
- Add 1 cup of stock and the saffron. Stir to combine, cover, and let cook 2 - 3 minutes. If there is still liquid to absorb, cover and let cook another 2 - 3 minutes. If the bottom of the pan stays visible after stirring, repeat this step with the next cup of stock. Continue to repeat this step until all stock has been added.
- After adding the last cup of stock and cooking for 2 minutes, add the parmesan, cream and asparagus. Do not stir! Cover and drop heat to low.
- Heat butter in a small frying pan over medium heat.
- When it begins to foam add the shrimp, leaving enough room for shrimp to cook without touching.
- When the shrimp start to turn pink, flip them over.
- Cook 2 - 3 minutes more.
- Pour shrimp and any remaining butter into the risotto mixture.
- Stir to combine.
- Taste and add salt if needed.
- Serve garnished with parmesan and parsley.