Master of Disguise

Before you is risotto.  Looks about right, especially with the shrimp.  Smells good too, as there’s a faint trace of lemony freshness.  Risotto is made with rice, right?  Maybe it is, usually, but in this case, the grain of choice is a pasta, orzo.  The pasta even looks like rice, it’s cooked al dente, just like a good rice is, but the orzo is an option a bit more substantive for winter, which really contrasts nicely with the lightness the shrimp and lemon impart.

When Cook’s Country included the recipe in late summer (August/September) 2019, thoughts of the approaching chill turned to coziness, and this preparation properly puts one in mind of that bliss.  It doesn’t hurt that the risotto is served steaming-hot, directly from the stovetop. Or that the orzo tenderizes in a quart of chicken stock (homemade, if you please), and it absorbs all that savory warmth.

Beautiful, and this cookpot meal is just what’s needed to insulate from even the iciest blizzards, but also present are tantalizing memories of last summer’s glistening greenery.  Or is it a foretaste of spring’s resurgence in a couple months?  Doesn’t matter, because the lemon provides a subtle sparkle of the brightness that sustained us once, and will again.

Moreover, cilantro garnishes the dish, which means one of the first things the diner sees, and tastes, is a touch of leafy greenness.  Even the name, Shrimp and Orzo Risotto with Saffron and Lemon, inspires warm thoughts to go along with the warm stomach.  Frigidness doesn’t stand a chance.

As for the protein, the shrimp does a good job celebrating both coziness and anticipation.  Sure, seafood brings the sea to mind (wow, really?), and shrimp delivers a clean, almost sweet, succulence.  Still, being in a pot with boiling broth and sautéed shallots gives the shellfish a glow that snuggles one in cashmere.

Lots of complexity here.  There’s the pasta that looks like rice, of course, but this meal has one more twist.  As the orzo slips into the warm bath at the start, a generous pinch of saffron goes into the pot too.  As the threads bloom, they infuse everything with a cheerful yellowness.  That’s the best transformation of all, making up a plate of savory sunshine.  For late January, brilliant.


Shrimp and Orzo Risotto with Saffron and Lemon

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 onion, chopped fine (*1)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 and 1/2 cups orzo
  • 4 cups chicken broth (*2)
  • 1 and 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground pepper, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads, divided
  • 1 and 1/2 pounds shrimp, peeled, deveined and tails removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (*3)
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, plus a tablespoon of juice

Place a small stockpot over a medium flame.  Add the butter and cook until just melted.  Drop in the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about four minutes. Add the orzo and cook, stirring just once or twice, until the pasta is lightly toasted, about three minutes.

Stir in the broth, 1 and 1/4 teaspoons of the salt, 1/4 teaspoon of the pepper and saffron.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce flame to medium-low, cover pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is just tender, about 20 minutes.

Sprinkle the shrimp with the remaining 1/4 teaspoons (each) of the salt and pepper.  Stir the shrimp into the risotto and cover.  Cook until the shrimp are just opaque, about five minutes.  Off the heat, stir in the parsley, lemon zest and lemon juice, and serve.


1 -I swear, I thought it said, “2 medium shallots.”  Little matter, as shallots are more complex and subtler.  Culinary dyslexia, keeps making “onions” appear as “shallots.”

2 – The intro says it all – if you can make homemade broth, it’s so much better.  Entirely worth the initial investment in time, as pretty soon you’ll have a freezer full of golden excellence.

That’s Point #1.  Ready for a lecture?  As most of you weren’t around for the Vietnamese Crab and Asparagus Soup five years ago, I’m going to start again from the beginning…

3 – Parsley’s a possibility, but smart cooks, or those with taste buds, use cilantro instead.  Of course, if bitterness is your thing, fine, use parsley.


40 thoughts on “Master of Disguise

  1. I know some “Masters of Disguises”, but none of them are delicious or boast-worthy as is your recipe above, TA. Now I’m drooling along with Thor. Wonder if he’ll share his bowl with me? I don’t feel like cooking, tonight. 🐶

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, Tamara!

      Freezing/refrigeration is one of the things which makes our modern era tolerable. There was a time when the only alternative to preparing something from scratch was starvation. Nowadays, pulling something from the freezer is a most welcome Option C.

      What you see here each week usually was shared with others, but some of it was destined for the freezer. Especially the soups. Yep, the icebox is well provisioned!

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Absolutely, Tamara! Boneless, skinless chicken thighs diced to one-inch cubes would rival (and maybe even would surpass) shrimp’s succulence. Great idea!

      You know, I wonder – do I select shrimp, scallops, lobster, etc. because I love shellfish so, or do I do so because I secretly hope someone asks about substituting chicken? Any time we start talking about poultry, it always makes the conversation savorier.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha… I’m getting hungry again! I love chicken! I have to eat the white part, and skinned. My body can not tolerate fat because of my mitochondrial disorder. It turns fat into a toxic substance. I can get… maybe 10-11 gms fat a day. My diet is really strict and has to be well thought out each day. But, I manage since I’m used to it! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah I see, Tamara. It speaks well of your fondness for the bird, you find a way – despite the challenges. Inspiring, indeed.

        That’s one of the benefits of preparing food from scratch: with nominal work, you often can make things as lean as circumstance requires. Chicken delivers the keynote address on this topic.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Absolutely, Tamara! Most restaurants, from fast food all the way up to those vying for a Michelin star, tend to oversalt their offerings.

        After all, salt=flavor, and even at the upper end, chefs still want to make their food memorable. Sure, there are many exceptions, and many of the better chefs know how use something other than salt to enhance their dishes, but the temptation still is there. Besides, the home cook, even one obsessed with sourcing ingredients of the highest quality, still saves so much money every time she eats in.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. In fact, the fats that are healthy for others such as Olive Oil, Salmon, Avocado, (Long Chain Triglycerides) ETC., are bad for me. I can use something called MCT Oil (Medium Chain Triglycerides) or a bit of refined coconut oil.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. ok this is funny. I find your pictures striking so I always pause to look at them for a loooong while. Then I read the post. So, as usual, I admired the picture and thought “oh look orzo with shrimp! that’s awesome!” then I read the opening sentence. “before you is risotto”. I was like “oh no I need new glasses I could swear that’s orzo!” lol glad to hear IT WAS ORZO! lol I love this recipe of course!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Beautiful, Mar! Greatly appreciated, especially your generous appreciation of the photographs. Thank you.

      Even better awaits, if dreams are any indication. In some cases, even years before the shopping list has been fulfilled, the vision tantalizes already. It draws this site forward. Can’t wait until 2023…2024…2025…to show everyone!

      Oh, and have no fear, “real” risotto is coming this summer! After that, two or three more variations are planned for the coming years. Risotto is a favorite, though there are many possibilities yet to be discovered. We’ll experience them together.

      Good eyesight after all, spotting the orzo at once! It was a winning combination but, between us, I like risotto even more. Fortunately, lots of opportunity ahead to explore its excellence!


      1. Thank you, Mar! We still inch toward the runway. Soon enough, acceleration, take off, and then to the heavens we climb. This is your captain speaking – it’s going to be a thrilling flight.

        Oh, by the way, I just ordered “Piranesi” from Amazon. Speaking of thrilling flights….

        I appreciate your suggestion, and I anticipate its result!


      2. Oh I CANNOT wait to hear how you like piranesi. I’m nervous!! First time I know someone buys a book I recommended! Ha! I just reread what I wrote! I meant “long term” though I know there is plenty of love for your blog too! 🙂
        Ok capt, we your blog’s community are all buckled up and starsbound!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Don’t be nervous, Mar. You have excellent taste, and over the years I’ve learned there’s good reason for your enthusiasm. Not only that, but Paranesi seems to go many of the same places my mind does when it wanders. I don’t have the book yet, but I think I’m going to love it!

        Relax. Once we pop above the clouds, I’ll switch off the seat belt sign, and we’ll have plenty of sun and smooth skies for the rest of the flight. You’ll like the meals and desserts we’ve prepared for you. In fact, here comes the first cart now…


  3. I have a new little research project for my next trip to the local grocery store. See if they sell orzo. I’m not too confident although they have gobs of macaroni noodles that are as long as spaghetti. Rice is absolutely no problem either.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You might be surprised, JoAnn. While Italian cooking lacks French cuisine’s prestige, it’s gaining quickly.

      As such, the staples are beginning to show up everywhere. You might need to visit a city grocer, but if it yields orzo, worth the trip, right?

      Of course, there always is Amazon, but with international shipping, you might get nicked for $25. Much better, of course, if you find it on the island. After all, where does the Italian embassy get its food?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Never worry, Rachel, a genuine risotto will set everything right this summer!

      The poser made a satisfying run, all modesty aside, but it merely intensified craving for the real thing. Risotto has bubbled away happily before, and it will again. In fact, look for two or three recipes to show up wherever you surf the web.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh, I don’t mind this. Granted, my only experience with “real” risotto is restricted to some casual watching of Hell’s Kitchen many years ago. But at any rate, I’ll be interested to receive an education on a true risotto. And if the recipe calls for onions, I can always count on there being shallots instead. 😜

        Liked by 1 person

      2. At first, risotto intimidated. By lore, so finnicky is its production, none but the most gifted of Italian chefs should attempt it.

        A couple surprisingly happy efforts undid most of that fearsome reputation, though, and now I look forward to taking you along for the ride the next time.

        I say, Rachel, you are a faithful reader! The whole Onions v. Shallots debate has been relatively quiet lately, but I always look forward to rallying my favorite allium! Shallots are more expensive and sometimes are difficult to source, but the challenge just makes final result more satisfying!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Why are so many obsessed with a vegetable which makes them cry? But for a lonely voice or two calling out in the wilderness, the culinary world would’ve been lost millennia ago.

        That’s why the Onion Cult is after me…

        Liked by 1 person

      4. “Poor” is a fitting description. Not even Fair; just Poor. One star.

        That was harsh, wasn’t it, Rachel? Ever the sentimentalist, I do feel bad now for picking on onions. Hand on heart, they’re all right.

        It’s just that shallots, scallions, leeks and chives are much better.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Jenn! Each has its own strengths, but I agree with you, a good risotto is unmatched. It takes some attention to get it right, but when you do, the rewards always exceed expectations, don’t you find?

      In that spirit, look for risotto (the real deal) to arrive this summer. Other family members to follow eventually.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Crystal! I’m glad the selection strikes your fancy too.

      Plenty of leftovers to go around. Though most often one serving is all that’s pictured – and on occasion, two – most assuredly, there’s much more. For one thing, the food frequently is shared with family, friends and even, from time to time, with coworkers.

      Beyond that, the freezer gets its share. Especially now that the worst of the COVID shortages have eased, it no longer is as important to stockpile basics. We’ve gone from raw materials, to finished cuisine. And there’s nothing cozier, or more reassuring, than a well-stocked freezer.


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