A Tale of Two Rices

As I browse through my blog, I can’t help but notice how often rice seems to come up. I really can’t help it, I have a love affair with that little grain. My only hope is that I offer some variety for you. That said, this is a rice post. Yep. Mas arroz.

In Panama, we prepare rice in many different ways; sometimes with coconut milk, or various beans and peas. Anything you want, really. Two of my favorites are Arroz con Frijoles Negros (rice with black beans) and Arroz con Camarones Secos (rice with dried shrimp).

They’re both easy to make and follow the same process as the recipe for Arroz con Guandú. For the black beans, I used dried beans and cooked them in the coconut milk, as detailed in the recipe below, but you can use canned beans . For the one with the dried shrimp and guandú, I cooked both of those in the coconut milk first, then followed the recipe.

For the Arroz con Coco y Frijoles Negros (Black beans & rice)
2 cps rice
1/2 cp dry black beans
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Arroz con Camaroncitos Secos y Guandú (Rice w/dried shrimp & pigeon peas)
2 cps rice
1 cp frozen guandú (pigeon peas)
1/2 cp dried shrimp
2 cps coconut milk
3 cps water
1/3 cp salt pork or bacon
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Method for both versions:
In a pot with a tight-fitting lid, brown the salt pork/bacon rendering some of its fat. Add the guandúes (pigeon peas), coconut milk. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat until it simmers. Cook it until the peas are tender, about 40 minutes. Strain the liquid and measure, add enough water to make 3-1/3 cps of liquid, set aside.

This recipe uses the frozen peas, however, if you are using the canned variety, just skip the step above. Instead, drain, rinse and strain the beans, then add coconut milk and water to  measure 3-1/3 cups. Fry the salt pork or bacon just before adding the rinsed rice.

Add oil to the pan with the peas, rinse the rice and add it to the pot stirring all the ingredients. Add the liquid, check the salt, stir this well. Make sure you remove any drippings that may have been stuck to the bottom of the pan. Bring it to a slow boil; once the liquid boils do not stir it again. Keep the temperature on medium high.

Once the liquid is almost completely evaporated, bring the temperature to low and cover with the lid. Allow to steam undisturbed for 40 minutes. When you remove the lid, all the peas will be at the top, go ahead and stir them into the rice. You’re done!

Note: The flavor of the coconut milk will intensify with time. You can cook the peas a day ahead to allow the flavors to meld together.

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A paella wannabe

This is another winning recipe from my old Panamanian cookbook, El Arte de Cocinar, by Berta de Pelaez. Berta must be Martha Stewart’s sister from another mother. I don’t remember if I saw Julia on TV when I was growing up, I do know Berta’s show was a daily event for my mom and I. She inspired my mom to expand her cooking and fueled her entertaining dreams.

I don’t believe I ever had this dish while I lived in Panama, but I’m definitely gonna make up for that with gusto! This turned out to be an easy, quick and delicious recipe, almost a quick take on a paella, really. I must admit, I made this a few months ago and didn’t share, it got lost amongst files and trips and lazy days. Now, I don’t want you to think it lacks luster, it really is a dish you should make. Soon.

I’m not sure about the name of the recipe, don’t really know what makes it ‘provincial style’, but it’s not my recipe. Also, the original called for fish pieces and salchichas–these would be wieners, instead, I opted for shrimp and soft Spanish chorizo. Enough of that, here’s the food.

Arroz a la Provinciana (Provincial style rice)

1 cp pork shoulder, cubed
1 cp Spanish chorizo, cubed
1 onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Salt & pepper
1 can stewed tomatoes, diced
1 cp white wine
1/4 lb squid, cleaned & sliced to rounds
1/2 lb shrimp, peeled & deveined
1/4 cp olive oil, approx
3 cps rice

Season the pork with the cumin, salt, pepper and garlic. Add a bit of oil to a medium saucepan, heat it over medium high and add the chorizo. Once the fat begins to render, add the pork cubes and brown for a few minutes. Remove from the pan, leaving the oil behind, then add the onions and bell pepper. Continue to cook until the onions are translucent, then remove from the oil and combine with the shrimp and squid.

Return the pork and chorizo to the pan over high heat, add the wine and allow it to burn off the alcohol before adding the tomatoes. Add about 1 cp of water and coo until the pork is tender. Remove pork mixture from the  pan and reserve any liquid. Add a bit more oil and heat over high temperature.

Rinse and drain the rice and add to the heated pan, stirring to coat all the grains with the oil and until the grains look white and not translucent. Stir in the pork and chorizo. Measure any liquid that you reserved and add enough water to measure 5 cps of liquid. Add to the rice, check and adjust the seasoning as needed. Do not stir once it begins to boil!!!!

Allow the rice to cook without disturbing it, until the liquid evaporates. When it is almost dry and you can see the top of the rice, delicately add the shrimp, squid and onion mixture, spreading it evenly across the top DO NOT STIR INTO THE RICE.

Lower the temperature to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Allow the rice to steam for about 15 minutes. At that time, you can feel free to stir with wild abandon, but be careful not butcher the cooked seafood. Now get a fork and start eating!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

A trifecta of goodness

Have you ever rediscovered the value of something long forgotten? Reacquainted yourself with an old friend? Isn’t it the best feeling in the world? I’ve had this little Panamanian cookbook for over 20 years–it has the wear, tear and stains to prove it–I think I’ve only pulled it out about 3 times a year for each year I’ve lived here. That’s like 60 uses in over 7,000 days! Crazy!

The cookbook is by Berta de Peláez, a well-known Panamanian cook and TV personality. She is Panama’s answer to Martha Stewart. I remember watching her show every morning with my Mami and my sister. Later my sister and I would get in the kitchen and re-enact our own show. Me as Berta, my sis as Maria, the assistant. Fun times!

Can you imagine how silly I felt after finding this little recipe? It really is a trifecta of goodness: rice, shrimp, garlic. Queue choir chants: AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH” Yes. It is that good. It is also incredibly easy to make and terribly quick. Did I say it was DELICIOUS? Because it was. Yep. To die.

It’s almost like a fried rice, except you fry the rice in butter (my adaptation, because butter makes everything bettah) and add a generous amount of garlic. I had some leftover steamed rice from my delivery order of Chinese food, and that’s what I used. You could also make some fresh rice for this, but let it cool a bit before putting it all together. Ready? This is gonna go pretty fast!

Arroz al Ajillo (Garlic Rice)
adapted from El Arte de Cocinar

1/2 medium shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 tsp smoked paprika
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cp bacon, diced
4 tbsp butter
3-5 garlic cloves, crushed
3 green onions, diced
3 cps rice, cooked

I opted to slice the shrimp in half, lengthwise. Not sure why, but that’s what I did. Season the shrimp with the paprika, salt and pepper and set aside.

In a medium-sized pan, cook the bacon  until crisp. Add the shrimp and cook them for a couple of minutes just until they don’t look translucent. Add 2/3 of the green onions. Remove the shrimp and bacon from the pan with a slotted spoon, leaving the bacon fat behind.

In the same pan, add the butter, once melted add the garlic and give it a quick stir. Don’t let it burn. Add the rice and stir well to make sure it is all coated with the garlic butter. Incorporate the shrimp, toss and serve topped with the rest of the green onions.

How do you like THAT?!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Raising the dead

I think I’ve hinted at the fact that Panama is a big seafood country. I may have also shared that we love to party. Overindulgence is quite common to us. When it happens, you hear of various remedies and traditions to  cure a persistent hangover. One such remedy: Levanta muerto (raise the dead).

I’m uncertain where the restorative quality of a caldillo de mariscos comes from, or if they are real. What I do know is that it makes for excellent cold weather, hot weather, bad mood, happy mood and comfort food food.

I love seafood soups, but I wanted this broth to be light and filled with the flavors from the sea without being too fishy. So when I went to my fish market, I picked up some mild fish and asked for the carcass to be bagged separately. I then used it to make a deliciously flavored broth.

*To make the broth, I added the fish carcass, shrimp peels (no heads), 1/2 an onion, a few garlic cloves, carrots and celery to a generous pot of water that was seasoned with salt & pepper. I allowed it to simmer for a few minutes, strained and reserved the broth. Here’s how it comes together:

Caldillo de Mariscos (Seafood soup)

Seafood broth*
Clams, scrubbed
Fish (red fish, tilapia or similar), cubed
Shrimp, peeled & deveined
Culantro leaves
Fresh thyme
Yuca, peeled & cubed
Sea salt & pepper

After straining the broth, I returned it to the pot, added the pieces of yuca, chopped culantro leaves (you can substitute with cilantro), a bit of finely chopped thyme, adjust the seasoning as needed. Allow it to cook until the yuca is fork-tender.

While the yuca is cooking, I seasoned the fish and shrimp with 1 tsp of Jugo Maggi (substitute with Worcestershire),  then reduced the temperature to bring the broth to a slow simmer and added the fish, shrimp and clams. Allow it to simmer for about 5 minutes, just until the clams open up. Serve with white rice or crusty bread.

Want to see more food porn? Follow this link. Yeah, baby!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

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 sautéed 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 Maracuyá  (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

A shrimp is not just a shrimp

I made this awesome dish as my contribution to Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour as she takes us and her readers to my homeland, Panama! The criteria to participate in the tour is pretty relaxed, you can either  prepare a traditional dish in a) a traditional way, b) traditional dish modernized or c) just implement local ingredients and/or techniques. This particular recipe is one of 2 I shared and it showcases local ingredients in a modern or contemporary way, the other was an almost traditional Seafood Guacho.

The recipe comes from a beautiful cookbook I picked up on my last trip to Panama. ‘Sabores de Panamá(Flavors of Panama) by Jorge Jurado, one of Panama’s renown chefs who has tasked himself with bringing traditional Panamanian dishes to the next level. The recipe showcases popular local ingredients: shrimp, passion fruit, chayote squash, coconut and sugar cane, these are then elevated when combined with fish sauce and smoked paprika and a beautiful presentation.

Let’s talk about the ingredients, shall we? Panama is all about the seafood, man. So much so that it is sold door-to-door. Yep, you read right. A few years ago, my dear friend Dorothy went to Panama with me and we stayed at my parents’ home. One morning while we were starting to wake up, we heard a man’s voice over a loudspeaker saying ‘Pescao, pescao, pargo, corvina, cojinoa, PESCAO’. A wave of giggles ensued, she looked at me awestruck. I had mentioned this phenomena to her, but I think she secretly doubted my honesty. See, about 3 times a week, there’s a guy in a truck who drives around my parents’ hood selling the morning catches, it doesn’t get any fresher than that. We didn’t have the ice cream truck, we get the seafood truck.

OK, back to the components of this magical dish. Chayote is a variety of squash that is as readily available in Panamá as zucchini and yellow squash is in the US. Like zucchini, it is very light, has a great deal of water content and a very mild taste with a discernible sweetness. A tart and luscious caramel made of raspadura, unrefined sugar cane, and passion fruit works beautifully with the mild flavors of the chayote and the spiciness of the smoked paprika and habanero pepper and the creamy coconut sauce. I fell in love with this dish, I think you will too.

Langostinos con Caramelo de Maracuya, Chayote y Aire de Coco (Prawns with Passion Fruit Caramel, Chayote and Coconut Foam)

For the prawns:
20 head-on large prawns, peeled & deveined
1 tbsp Spanish paprika
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 garlic clove, crushed
Sea salt & black pepper
Mix the ingredients together and use to marinate the prawns. Allow them to marinate while you prepare the rest of the components.

For the chayote:
4 chayote squash, halved
4 rosemary sprigs
Sea salt & black pepper
The recipe suggested peeling the chayotes and cooking in the microwave with a bit of olive oil. I don’t like handling raw chayotes, they have a sticky sap that is a pain to remove from your hands. Instead, I placed them in a pot over a steam tray, added water to the bottom, sprinkled salt & pepper over them and tucked the rosemary sprigs around them. They steamed for about 10-15 minutes and I peeled them just before serving. Easy breezy.

For the passion fruit caramel:
1/2 cp raspadura, crumbled
4 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 cp passion fruit concentrate
If you cannot find raspadura, you can substitute with dark brown sugar. Melt the raspadura in a small pan and allow it to cook until it becomes caramel. Add the butter and passion fruit concentrate and cook until it thickens again, about 15 minutes. Set aside.

For the coconut foam:
1 cp unsweetened coconut milk
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp fresh ginger, crushed
1/2 tsp habanero paste
1/4 tsp soy sauce
Combine all the ingredients into a small pan and bring to a boil. I didn’t end up with foam, he suggests using a hand blender, which I do not own, so I put mine into the blender. If you do own a hand blender, then keep this warm and use the blender to froth it just as you are finished plating. If you don’t, I suggest cooking down the sauce a bit, to reduce and thicken it, then you can spoon it right over the prawns.

Putting it together:
Heat a skillet and add a bit of olive oil and butter, saute the prawns, cooking for a couple of minutes on both sides (if you’re not a fan of foods with a face, feel free to remove the heads, but there is a lot of flavor there). Set aside, but keep warm.

On a plate, spread about 1 tbsp of the caramel, top with the chayote, then place a prawn atop the squash. Top witht he coconut foam or cream and be ready to ooooh and aaaah in enjoyment.


I can’t wait to make this again. Do stop by and take in Joan’s tour. For more shrimpy shots, click here and go here to see my second dish, Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

Foodalogue’s Culinary Tour: Destination Panamá

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% Panameña (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’s 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 entrée 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 Panamá(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! Panamá en tu plato (Panama on your plate). Next stop… ALASKA!

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris