Whenever those three magical words, asopao de camarones, are merely whispered in any kitchen belonging to a hispanic family, those that are around that kitchen can expect something as close to reaching Heaven, Nirvana, Valhalla (insert favorite afterlife place here) as possible, specially if abuela (grandma) is cooking. It is its own event, like a thanksgiving, everyone gathers around the table for it; but unlike thanksgiving, this meal can happen anyplace (usually at grandma’s house) at any time. The term asopao, although considered a soup, is so much more than that; this dish is half way to becoming a stew. The reason is that everything is thrown into the pot so all the flavors mix. Not one bite is similar to the next. Like a pumpkin spice latte is the sign that fall is here, a good asopao is the key start to the holidays. It is a favored dish for parties since one big enough pot can feed an army.
The recipe I wanted, belonged to my grandmother, who got it from a cookbook, that I thought my mother had; but to my dismay she did not. After accessing Google, I typed the word “asopao de camarones” into the search bar. The third recipe that I looked at was a recipe from Chef Andy with recetaspuertorico.com showed up. While reading it, all the ingredients looked strangely familiar. Huzzah! These are exactly the ingredients that grandmother used in order to prepare this dish. Even the pictures of the finished product look like it! Wonderful childhood memories came rushing back. Guess what I’ll be doing this weekend?
Asopao de Camarones (Shrimp and Rice Soup)
*For best results use fresh shrimps. If allergic to shellfish, you may substitute with chicken or any other protein.
*Sofrito can be found in most grocery stores, the best flavor comes out when made fresh. To make it you will need: onions, peppers, parsley, garlic. Tomatoes, salt. Place in blender, until a thick paste is achieved. Freeze remainder for future use.
- 1 pound (lb) of shrimps*
- 4 to 6 cups of water
- ½ a cup of rice (medium grain)
- ½ a can of tomato sauce (Goya or Publix)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 bell pepper , chopped in small pieces
- Cilantro (to taste)
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 tablespoons of achiote oil
- 2 tablespoons of sofrito*
- Stuffed olives or capers (optional)
- A pinch of saffron (to taste)
- Salt and pepper
- Wash shrimp thoroughly in cold water.
- Peel off shell and tail. Do not discard.
- Cut shrimp down the middle to clean and devein.
- In a pot, place shells and tails and water together, and boil for 5 minutes to make shrimp stock.
- Remove shells and tails when they turn orange.
- Add the garlic, bell pepper, cilantro, tomato sauce, bay leaf, oil of achiote, sofrito, stuffed olives of capers, saffron to the pot.
- Let it simmer for about 5 minutes so that all the ingredients season the broth.
- At this point, add the rice. After ten minutes, or whenever the rice is cooked, add the shrimp.
- Cook until shrimp display an orange hue and are cooked (about 5 to 10 minutes)
- Remove from heat and rest for about 2 to 3 minutes.
Serve with extra side of rice, a few slices of avocado, or Tostones (fried plantains). Buen provecho!