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
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,


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,

A year later

I still find it to be:

A learning experience.
Worth waking up in the morning.
Challenging in all the right ways.

Last week made a year since The Hubbz and I said *I do* and it’s been a year filled with living, loving and learning. Who would’ve known¬† that two people who had given up on love, who never believed in fairy tales, who faced all the challenges life sent their way would feel like love-struck teenagers ever again.

We got to know each other before we ever met and when we did, we knew almost instantly we would see each other every day for the rest of our lives. On our first official date we decided to cook together, it seemed only appropriate we did the same for our first anniversary.

Want to know what was on the menu?

Tomato & Avocado Salad
Pan Seared Scallops with Red Pepper Confit

I can’t really explain how incredibly good these were, and so easy to put together. The salad was a no-hassle toss together kinda deal, and the parsley¬†made it¬†so fresh and crisp. Then the red pepper confit was out-of-this-world good. I swear I could take a tub of that and eat it on its own!

For the salad:
Cube 4 slices of ciabatta (or other bread you like) into 1-inch cubes and toast them in a nonstick skillet with some butter and olive oil. Set aside and allow to cool.

In a bowl, combine chopped
Tomatoes (I used 3 small ones)
1/2 avocado
1/2 cp fresh mozzarella
about 1 cp fresh Italian parsley (tear the leaves from the stems)
Add the cooled bread and toss with 2-3 tbsp of your favorite vinaigrette. Serve immediately.

For the Red Pepper Confit:
2 large red peppers
about 1/3 cp extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 red onion (or yellow)

Add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until the peppers have softened completely (about 30 minutes). Allow it to cool for about 15 minutes before pureeing it–use a blender or a small food processor.

Return it to the saucepan and add a bit of broth or water to thin the puree. Keep warm while you cook the scallops.

For the scallops:
10-12 scallops (these were medium-sized)
rosemary stems (remove the springs and save for future use)
salt & pepper

I used the rosemary stems and skewered 2 scallops on each one. You can skip this step if you want.  Heat a nonstick skillet on high and add about 1 tbsp of oil. Make sure the scallops are dry and sprinkle with a bit of salt & pepper and sear them on the skillet. About 2 minutes per side, should be enough for medium-large scallops. Set aside and keep warm.

To plate: I wanted to preserve the crust on the scallops, so I blanched a few asparagus spears to put between the sauce and the scallops. Spread about 2 tbsp of the pureed confit, lay a few asparagus, then top with the scallops.

Happy Anniversary, Papucho!

Cookingly yours,

Paella A Mi Manera

I’ll tell you what. If ever I’m asked what would I like as my final¬†meal, Paella¬†will definitely be on my mind. It combines a bit of everything I love in the food world: rice, seafood, pork, chicken, saffron, RICE! Ay bendito! It makes my heart quicken.

There isn’t a thing about this dish I don’t love. I love the look of it. I love the taste of it. I love the scent of¬†it. I just love it, seriously. I do. I’m not exaggerating. I made this batch Sunday evening and ate the last bit of it for lunch on Wednesday. The Hubbs and I REALLY enjoyed this and took full advantage of it.

This isn’t an official, traditional, hand-me-down recipe. This is Paella¬†the way I remember my mom making it and the way I’ve tweaked it over the years.¬† I think it took just over an hour to get it all done, but I didn’t really track the time. It isn’t terribly time-consuming, but there are¬†a few layers to take care of before arriving at the final product. Soooo worth it.

Disclaimer: Special thanks to my dear hubby who did all the action shots. The plating shots are mine.

Paella A Mi Manera (my way)
Serves about 8

For the meats:
6 chicken thighs
1/2 lb pork shoulder, approx
1-1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
2 tsp garlic, crushed
1-2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
4-6 plum tomatoes (about 2 cps)
1/2 cp dry sherry or white wine

I prefer using thighs as these will be braised for a bit, but if you are partial to chicken breasts, then use that. These thighs still had the bone and skin attached, this adds a lot of flavor to the cooked meat. You want to use a cut of pork that is well marbled (fatty), again this will be braising for a bit and marbling will prevent it from drying up.

Chop the pork into 1-inch cubes and put them in a medium bowl together with the chicken pieces. Season with the salt, pepper, paprika and garlic, give it a good toss to make sure all the pieces all well coated and set aside while chop the tomatoes. Slice the tomatoes in half, remove the seeds and dice into small pieces. Set aside.

You will need a saucepan that is big enough to hold the entire paella; it should also be on the shallow side and have a good fitting lid. Preheat the saucepan over medium-high, add enough oil to just glisten the bottom of the pan. Once the pan is hot, add the chicken pieces-skin side down as well as some of the pork. Brown the chicken and pork on both sides; you will probably have to do this in 2 batches. Make sure the pan is hot enough to sear the meat without drawing too much moisture from it.

Once all the chicken and pork is browned, remove it from the pan and set it aside. Since you’re browning the chicken with the skin still on, you may have quite a bit of fat left in the pan. Drain some of it, keeping about 2 tbsp in the pan. Add the tomatoes right into the pan; the moisture from the tomatoes will help loosen the drippings stuck at the bottom. Believe me, you want to scrape every bit of that into the sauce.

Once the tomatoes begin to soften and you’ve loosened the drippings, add the sherry and, if you’re not¬†nervous about it,¬†light a flame to burn off the alcohol. You don’t have to do it, since the tomatoes are still cooking at a pretty high heat, this will help evaporate the alcohol. Lower the temperature to¬† medium-low, add the chicken and pork and cover it. Allow it to simmer for about 30 minutes or so, you’ll be preparing the veggies and seafood while that simmers away.

For the Paella:
1/2 cp Spanish chorizo, diced
1 onion, chopped
3-4 scallions, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
4 cps rice (I used jasmine)
1/2 cp dry sherry or white wine
6 cps chicken/seafood broth
Saffron, a generous pinch
2 Bay leaves
1 lb large shrimp
1/2 lb baby scallops
1 tsp garlic, crushed
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lb mussels
3/4 cp peas & carrots, frozen
1/4 cp Italian parsley, finely chopped
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

Prepare the seafood: hopefully you bought unpeeled shrimp. If so, peel and devein the shrimp, but hold on to the skins. Put the deveined shrimp and scallops in a bowl and add the teaspoon of garlic, salt, oil  and pepper. Mix it well and set aside.

Also, make sure you give the mussels a good scrubbing and that you remove the beard.

Place the chicken broth in a small pan and simmer it with the bay leaves and the shrimp peel for about 15 minutes. Strain the broth and discard the peel and bay. Add the saffron to the broth and allow it to steep while you begin cooking the aromatics. 

The chicken and pork should be nice and tender by now, remove it from the pan, but leave the dripping in the pan. When the chicken has cooled, pull it off the bone and break into bite size pieces. Set it all aside.

To the pan where you cooked the chicken, add the bell peppers slices and cook them until they begin to soften. Remove the peppers from the pan and set aside.

To the pan, now add the cubed chorizo. Remember Spanish chorizo is similar to andouille, it is dry and hard, not to be confused with the Mexican variety. Cook the chorizo until it begins to render its fat. Add the onions and scallions and cook until the onions are translucent.

At this point, add the 1/2 cp of sherry and make sure you release all the drippings at the bottom of the skillet.

You will notice how dramatically the color changes after deglazing. It becomes this beautiful deep terracotta hue and you just know there’s an incredible amount of flavor layered in there. And I can’t even begin to explain how glorious it all smells.

While the onions cook, rinse and drain the rice. Add the rice to the pan with the onions, stirring to make sure all the grains are coated. If it looks too dry, add a bit of olive oil. Continue stirring and frying the rice for about 3 minutes until the grains begin to turn white.

Add the broth and give it a quick taste to make sure the rice liquid is well-seasoned, adjust accordingly.  Allow the broth to come to a boil before layering the meats on top.

First the chicken and pork, make sure to push them into the rice.

 As the liquid evaporates and you begin to see the top of the rice, add the peas & carrots trying to spread them out as evenly as possible.

Next, layer the red peppers.

It’s time for the mussels. Again, push them into the rice and try to spread them around.

Reduce the temperature to low. More than likely, the liquid will be almost completely gone by now, this is when you layer the shrimp and scallops over the top.

 Once you have all the seafood in, place the lid over the pan and allow it to steam for 20 minutes to give the rice grains enough time to open, at which point it will be done!

Sprinkle the parsley over the top just before serving.

It makes a beautiful presentation to bring the pan right over to the table, but you can also serve it beforehand as the pot WILL be completely full.


Cookingly yours,