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 guajillo peppers.
Guacho de Mariscos y Hongos (Seafood & Mushroom Guacho)
Yields 6-8 servings
For the guacho:
2 cups long-grain rice, soaked
1/2 cup bacon, chopped
Extra virgin olive oil
1 cup mushrooms, diced
1/2 cup shallots, diced
About 8 cups seafood broth
1 cup shrimp, peeled & deveined
1 cup scallops
5 tbsps chile puree
2 cups sofrito
For the sofrito:
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 cup yellow onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 green onion sprigs, finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, finely diced
6 tbsp 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 cup 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 chiles, cilantro (culantro, or recao as some know it, if you can find it), 1 carrot, salt & pepper. Strain and set aside.
For the chile puree: Rinse and deseed the chile peppers —
remember Panamanian food is not typically spicy hot. Put 2 ancho and 1 guajillo chiles in a small pot with 2 cups water, 1 clove garlic, a pinch of salt and simmer for about 10 minutes until the chiles 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 of 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 cups 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! ¡Buen provecho!