Asopao de Camarones
Café Atlántico, Washington, D.C.
This satisfying Puerto Rican rice and shrimp dish was a hit when chef Christy Velie served it at the Beard House. In some areas the only place to find whole shrimp with the heads on is a Chinatown seafood shop.
- 4 tablespoons capers, drained
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 5 tablespoons light olive or vegetable oil
- Shells from 3 pounds shrimp (see below)
- 1 large onion, washed and roughly chopped
- 2 carrots, washed and roughly chopped
- 1 stalk celery, washed and roughly chopped
- 5 peppercorns
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 1/2 cups long-grain, Carolina-style rice
- 6 tablespoons light olive or vegetable oil
- 2 green peppers (about 1 1/4 pounds), seeded and finely diced
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup (8 ounces) tomato sauce (not Italian-style; use Hunt’s® or Del Monte®)
- 10 sprigs fresh cilantro, chopped
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
- 1 bottle (1 1/2 cups) Puerto Rican beer
- 8 cups shrimp stock (see above)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- Pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh peas, shelled
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 tablespoons light olive or vegetable oil
- 1/4 pound morel (or other wild) mushrooms, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 3 pounds head-on shrimp, shells on bodies removed and reserved for stock (see above), deveined
- Olive or vegetable oil for frying
- Salt and freshly ground white pepper
- 4 red peppers, roasted, peeled, and finely chopped
To make the caper oil, place the capers in a blender and purée. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil. Strain this mixture through a cheesecloth-lined strainer and reserve the oil.
To make the shrimp stock, heat the oil in a saucepan and add the shrimp shells. Using a wooden spoon or potato masher, mash the shells as they cook to extract their flavor. After about 10 minutes, add the remaining ingredients along with about 10 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 45 minutes to an hour.
To make the rice, thoroughly rinse the rice with cold water several times until the water runs clear. Cover with more cold water and let soak for about 1 hour. Heat the oil in a large, wide saucepan. Add the peppers, onion, and garlic, and sauté about 8 minutes, until soft. Stir in the tomato sauce, cilantro, and oregano, and continue cooking about 5 minutes more. Add the beer, shrimp stock, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Drain the rice and stir it into this simmering mixture. Reduce the heat to a simmer and continue cooking about 20 minutes, stirring often, until the rice is tender and the dish has the consistency of a light risotto.
To make the shrimp and mushrooms, heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan. Sauté the mushrooms until soft. Season with salt and white pepper. Just before the rice is finished, stir the cooked mushrooms along with any of their juices, in along with the fresh peas. Adjust the seasoning.
Just minutes before you are ready to serve, heat the oil for the shrimp in a large sauté pan until very hot. Add the shrimp (with their heads on) and cook for a minute or two, just until the flesh turns opaque and the heads have changed color. Season. To serve, spoon the rice into large, wide bowls and arrange the shrimp on top. Drizzle with caper oil and garnish with roasted red pepper.