Applewood Smoked Shrimp | Saffron-Almond Risotto | Grilled Red Chard

When Mother’s Day came around last year, I wanted to do something special for my mom, and older sister–the ones who first put me to work in the kitchen. I took advantage of all my mom’s extra equipment and ingredients to test out a new recipe–and it worked!

I thought about grilling the shrimp, but decided it would be cool to smoke them over some Applewood on low heat. I like to use applewood with fish and white meat because it imparts a slightly sweet, and smoky flavor that doesn’t overtake the natural flavors of the meat. Smoking is usually a slow process, but shrimp cook quickly, even on low heat, so you won’t have to wait outside all day. I used the freshly lighted coals to grill some other meats, but threw on a few chunks of soaked applewood wrapped in foil onto the coals once the heat was in decline. I decided to grill the chard leaves briefly to add extra flavor, and once the grill started smoking, I spread the shrimp out on the highest rack, and closed it off. There was enough heat left to cook the shrimp all the way through, but I still flipped them over after a few minutes for good measure.

I originally didn’t plan to make Risotto until I saw that my mom had whole shrimp–and I needed something quick to be sure that the shells didn’t go to waste. Once I had a simple stock simmering, it just needed to stir it into the arborio rice until it was perfectly cooked. I seasoned the risotto with saffron (it was a special occasion, after all), and a little turmeric to bring out the golden color. Once it was cooked to my liking, I finished it off with wine, herbs and lemon juice to bridge all the flavors. We all ate well that night, and so can you…

Let’s cook.

You’ll need:

2 lbs Shell-On Shrimp

8 Cups Arborio Rice

3 Shallots, sliced thinly

2 Leeks, sliced thinly

4 Cloves of Garlic, minced

1 Head of Red Chard, rinsed

2 Lemons, juiced and zested

1 Cup Almonds, slivered

1/2 Cup Parsley, chopped

6 Cups Water

1/4 Tsp Saffron

1/2 Tsp Turmeric (for color)

1 Tsp Paprika

1/2 Tsp Coriander Powder

1/4 Tsp Chili Flakes

1/3 Cup Butter

1 1/2 Cups Chardonnay (or other dry white wine)

Applewood Smoking Chips, soaked

1 Bay Leaf

1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, shaved

Salt and Pepper to Taste

  1. Soak applewood smoking chips in warm water for 6-8 hours before grilling. Remove from water, and wrap loosely in aluminum foil. Use a knife to cut slits on all sides of the foil to allow smoke to escape.
  2. Peel, and de-vein the shrimp, but reserve the heads and shells to make the stock for the risotto. Pat dry with paper towel, then season with salt, pepper, and paprika. Cover with paper towel, and let stand on the counter for thirty minutes to come to room temperature.
  3. Light charcoal grill, and allow the flames to die down. *Feel free to grill whatever other foods you want at this point* After about forty-five minutes, add the smoking chip pouches to the grill, and allow smoke to evolve.
  4. Drizzle chard leaves with olive oil, and season with salt. Place them on the grill to char briefly on both sides, then remove from the grill and cover with foil.
  5. Evenly distribute the shrimp on the highest rack in your grill, and seal. Allow the shrimp to smoke on low heat for at least twenty-five minutes, or until fully cooked. Remove from grill, and keep warm
  6. Place pot on medium-high heat. Stir in the shrimp shells, garlic, half of the shallots and leeks, bay leaf, salt, pepper, lemon zest, coriander and turmeric. Add boiling water once the shells turn bright orange, then simmer until the shells turn translucent. Strain to remove all solids then continue to simmer until ready to make the risotto.
  7. Heat butter and olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add leeks, shallots, and almonds, then season with salt. Gently stir in arborio rice to coat in the oil and butter. Stir continuously. Add a small amount of wine, and stir until it evaporates. Add the hot shrimp stock one cup at a time, and stir until it is absorbed. Continue to stir, and add stock until the rice softens, then add parmesan, a final shot of wine, lemon juice, and chopped parsley. As always, taste for seasoning, then plate and serve.






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