I’m guessing the first question most people are asking when seeing this post is ‘what on Earth is asopao?’ Fair question, since I had no idea what it was either until about 2 months ago, but once I discovered it things got ugly fast.
Anyone who knows me even reasonably well can tell you that I am a ‘restaurant wanderer’. I lurk around on local foodie forums and websites looking for new and unusual places to eat and then make a trek out to try them just to say I did. Some of my favorite foods and styles of cuisine have been discovered this way, and one of the places that I discovered here in Louisville absolutely blew my mind
That place, a tapas-style restaurant ironically named Mojito Tapas Restaurant is an amazing place for anyone who loves dishes with incredible flavor and top notch ingredients, and one of their dishes, they call it Asopado, was so good it made me want to try and create it at home. The Asopado is in their soup menu, and the first time I tried it, I was in lust – a rich, thick, rice soup with tender chunks of chicken, chorizo, and amazingly tender and perfectly cooked shrimp that was just flat-out delicious.
After doing some research, I found that the traditional spelling of the name of this dish was actually ‘asopao’, and that there were hundreds of different takes on the dish using countless numbers of different ingredients.
The one thing I found that was constant was some form of sofrito, which is a cooking base of onion, garlic, bell peppers and oil, also with countless numbers of additional ingredients depending on who you ask or where you go to find a recipe. Armed with all that semi-knowledge, I decided that my version would use the most basic of sofritos, include the ingredients I loved so much from the version at Mojito, and I would work from there. I also planned on cheating a little by adding commercially available sofrito-base from my local Mexican Grocery to kick up the flavor a bit.
After spending the better part of an afternoon wandering from place to place gathering the needed ingredients (and a metric ton of other stuff – the people who know me will also vouch for my being a ‘shopping pack-rat’, so no trip to a grocery, market, or kitchen store will ever end with me leaving with only the items I went in for. It’s just how I roll.) I finally entered the kitchen, flipped the radio to a classic rock station, and began the cooking process.
Disclaimer – the final results were not 100% what I was after, which is why the title of this post is ‘Round 1′, but the dish was amazingly good and definitely worth sharing. I will continue to experiment and refine the stuff, so once I have it down to what I consider ‘Mojito-ness’, it will reappear.
The Asopao Experiment (Round 1)
- 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/2 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/2 tsp sea or kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely diced
- olive oil
- 2 boneless chicken breasts, cubed
- 1/2 lb jumbo (U20 or larger) shrimp, peeled and de-veined
- 1 large link of chorizo, sliced into rounds (see pic)
- 1 32oz box of seafood or chicken stock
- 1 cup water or additional stock
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste concentrate (the tube kind) or a small can of regular tomato paste
- 1 cup white rice (I used Jasmine simply because it was what I had on hand)
- 2 heaping tablespoons Goya sofrito (available at Latin markets and some grocery stores)
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp Spanish paprika
- 1 bay leaf
Step 1 : Add the diced green and red peppers, diced onion, salt, pepper, both types paprika, and olive oil to a large deep pot on medium/high heat. Cook covered until the onion begins to soften.
Step 2 : Add the diced garlic to the pot and continue to cook covered for another 3-5 minutes.
Step 3 : Add the sofrito mix, tomato paste, and the dry rice to the pot and stir until all the rice is covered.
Step 4 : Add the stock and extra cup of water, the bay leaf, and the cubed chicken to the pot. Bring the mix to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 5 : Add the sliced chorizo to the pot, cover, and simmer for an additional 10 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the asopao is nice and stewy. Add additional liquid if needed to keep the mixture at a thick but not dense consistency.
Step 6 : Add the shrimp (whole or chopped) to the pot and stir them into the rice mix. Remove from heat and let stand 3-5 minutes before serving to allow the shrimp to cook through, then serve.
Note – if you do not consume the entire dish the first time around, you might want to pick out and eat all the shrimp before storing the leftovers – they will not reheat as well as the rest of the ingredients. Enjoy them while they are at their freshly cooked best.
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