Panama Culinary Tour: Guacho de Mariscos

This is one of two dishes¬†I prepared¬†to participate¬†in Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour, this time visiting my stomping grounds, Panama! This dish came to be as a result of a ‘What’s in the Bag‘ challenge posed by my dear Hubbz. He went to the store and brought everything but the¬† butcher’s block, which I then had to incorporate¬†into a Latin meal.¬†

Seafood Guacho at Las Tinajas in Panama

Guacho (pronounced Wah-cho) is a popular Panamanian specialty; a¬†slightly soupy rice dish, similar to an Italian¬†risotto or a Puerto rican¬†asopao. Unlike risotto, guacho is made from regular, long grain white rice that is soaked in water for a bit before it is saut√©ed and simmered in the cooking liquid of choice.¬†The dish is then flavored and augmented with an array of¬† local ingredients; there’s always some sort of meat or protein from pork, chicken, cured pig’s tails, or¬†seafood, in addition to various beans and roots such as yuca¬†and¬†otoe.

Different from the way I’ve usually explained how to cook rice, the rice in guacho wants for more liquid and a longer cooking time, this¬†allows for the rice¬†starches to develop into a creamy, rich frenzy. I pretty much stuck to the traditional elements of the dish, only straying away in the preparation of the sofrito and by adding mushrooms to the rice itself.

Panamanian sofrito is generally made with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and a few other aromatics, this time I included dried chile ancho¬†and guajillos.¬†But enough chatter, let’s cook!

Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos (Seafood & Mushroom Guacho)
6-8 servings

For the guacho:
2 cps long grain rice, soaked
Water
1/2 cp bacon, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cp mushrooms, diced
1/2 cp shallots, diced
About 8 cps seafood broth
1 cp shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 cp scallops
Sea salt
5 tbsps chile puree
2 cps sofrito

For the sofrito:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cp yellow onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 green onion sprigs, finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
6 tbsps chile puree
Sea salt and a pinch of sugar
In a medium pan heat the oil and add the onions, cook them until soften before adding the garlic and green onions. Then add the tomatoes, 1/2 cp water and chile puree, lower the temperature and allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes. Keep warm.

For the seafood broth: I used the skins from the shrimp, bringing them to a simmer with plenty of water, 1 clove garlic, one of the dry ancho chilies, cilantro (culantro, if you can find it), 1 carrot, salt & pepper. Strain and set aside.

For the chile puree: Rinse and seed the chilies–remember Panamanian food is not typically spicy hot. Put 2 ancho and 1¬†guajillo chilies in a small pot with 2 cps water, 1 clove garlic, a pinch of salt and simmer for about 10 minutes until the chilies soften. Allow it to cool before running it through the blender. Set aside.

For plating: Reserve a few shrimp and scallops to place over the finished dish.

Preparation – Guacho:

Rinse the rice, then add enough cool water to cover it and allow it to soak for at least 20 minutes and up to 1 hour. In a large pan, render the fat from the bacon, but don’t crisp it. Add the onions and allow to cook¬†until they begin to soften. Then add the mushrooms and cook for about 3 minutes.

Drain the rice and add to the pan. If necessary, add a bit more olive oil, just enough to coat all the grains. Add 2 tbsps of the chile puree, 6 cps of the seafood broth and adjust the seasoning by adding sea salt as necessary. Lower the temperature to medium-low and allow it to simmer until the broth evaporates. Stir it every so often to make sure nothing gets stuck to the bottom of the pan.

While the rice is cooking, prepare the seafood: chop the shrimp and scallops to bite sizes (remember to save a few of each for plating). Marinate all the seafood (including those for plating) with 2 tbsps of the chile puree and a bit of sea salt and black pepper; set aside until needed.

Once the broth has evaporated, check the doneness of the rice grains. They should be fully open and swollen. If the liquid has evaporated completely, add a bit more broth or water, then add the chopped seafood. Stir in the seafood, bring the temperature to low and allowing to cook covered for another 5 minutes.

In the meantime, saute the reserved shrimp in a bit of olive oil, set aside. When ready to serve, spoon some guacho on the bottom of a bowl, top generously with a couple tbsps of sofrito and top with the sautéed seafood. Enjoy and Buen Provecho!

For the rest of the yummy guacho shots, follow this link. You can also see the other dish, Langostinos¬†en Caramelo¬†de Maracuy√°¬† (Prawns in Passion Fruit Caramel) by following this link. And don’t miss the entries submitted by other food bloggers, visit Foodalogue for the tasty bits.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour: Destination Panam√°

The first time I came across Joan’s blog, Foodalogue,¬†was because of her Culinary Tour¬†events. She chooses a country and invites her readers on a virtual tour of that country and its cuisine. Joan’s rules for her tour are very relaxed; one can make a traditional dish in¬† a traditional way, OR modernize a traditional dish, OR utilize the ingredients and/or techniques of the country in your own way. The world tour will end this year visiting 7 new countries and Panama will be kicking things off.

As a 100% Paname√Īa¬†(that’s Panamanian for non-Spanish speakers), I am required to participate¬†and represent. Really, it’s in the constitution or something. When most people think of Panama, they think of the Panama Canal and Noriega, so before we dive into the grub, let me share some so facts regarding my homeland.

  • Our borders are¬† the Caribbean Sea, the Pacific Ocean, Colombia and Costa Rica.
  • According to the 2010 country rankings by the World Economic Council of Global Competitiveness, Panama ranks 53 out of 139 countries and is expected to end up in the top 50 this year.
  • As of 2010 it is the second most competitive economy in Latin America.
  • Panama has the largest rainforest in the Western Hemisphere outside the Amazon.
  • Basketball is big there and a number of well-known NBA players hail from the little country, including Rolando Blackman (four-time NBA All-Star) and Kevin Daley¬†of the Harlem Globetrotters.
  • Another big game, baseball. Rod Carew¬†and Mariano Rivera¬†both hit balls in Panama before hitting the big time.

  • Panama‚Äôs cuisine is influenced by its diverse population of Hispanic, native Indian, European, African and even Chinese migrations.
  • Unlike many of the neighboring countries, Panamanian food is not particularly spicy (heat).
  • Yellow corn is often used for many of our dishes and fish, seafood and shellfish dishes are Panamanian specialties. For more detailed food info, check this link.

Anydoo,¬†this past year I’ve shared many recipes and told you about foods¬†from Panama and you can be assured that there are plenty more to come starting¬†with 2 dishes I¬†submitted¬†for Joan’s tour. The first is a modern rendition using local ingredients, which could work as a beautiful appetizer, though The Hubbz¬†and I scarfed it down as our entr√©e the other night. The second came as a result of one of our ‘What’s in the Bag‘ evenings. The Hubbz¬†went to the store and brought everything but the¬† butcher’s block, which I then had to incorporate¬†into a meal.¬†It is a pretty traditional dish, with a very tiny itsy¬†bitsy twist. Ready? Here we go.

For an appetizer: Langostinos en Caramelo de Maracuyá con Aire de Coco (Prawns in Passion Fruit Caramel and Coconut Foam).

This was incredible with an exciting and complex flavor profile. I followed a recipe from Jorge Jurado’s latest cookbook ‘Sabores¬†de Panam√°(Flavors of Panama). Jurado¬†is a renown chef in Panama,¬†who is at the forefront of a movement to elevate Panamanian dishes to haute cuisine.

In this recipe, Jurado makes use of popular local flavors: shrimp, passion fruit, chayote squash, coconut and¬†sugar cane and¬†hypes them up with fish sauce and smoked paprika. The final¬†dish¬†is assembled¬†a layer at a time and topped with coconut foam–which I wasn’t able to accomplish, but still ended up with an insanely delicious¬†sauce that tasted of the sea and tropical fruits. That sauce alone would make a dish unforgettable.

This dish wasn’t complicated to put together, but it does have a lot of steps. Because I usually offer step-by-step photo instructions for my dishes, I’ll limit this post to a review and description then direct you here for the how-to.

As an entrée, I offer you a semi-traditional Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos

Guacho (pronounced WAH-cho) is a sort of risotto that is topped with a flavorful¬†sofrito. The primary, always present, ingredients¬†in any guacho¬†are rice and the sofrito that crowns it. Secondary and tertiary¬†ingredients would include an assortment of¬†any of these: various beans, pork, chicken, cured pig’s tails, seafood, and roots such as yuca¬†and¬†otoe.

Panamanian sofrito is generally made with onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and a few other aromatics, but this time, I added a puree made from dried chile ancho and guajillos. Also, mushrooms are not traditionally added to this dish.

For the guacho, I made a seafood broth with the shrimp skins and used it as cooking liquid for the rice which cooks until swollen plump. The seafood is added just at the end to prevent overcooking. Let me tell you, this is seafood heaven. The rice is laden with seafood and bacon flavors and is complimented by the sweetness of the shrimp and scallops. To add some textural interest, I pan-fried a few of the shrimp & scallops to top each serving. You can check out this post for the step by step recipe.

There you have it! Panam√°¬†en tu plato (Panama on your plate). Next stop… ALASKA!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris