Arroz Con Camarones
What you need.
1 cup rice
2 cups water
1½ to 2 cups peeled shrimp
1½ to 2 cups mixed vegetables*
1 pinch saffron (about 1/8 teaspoon)
salt to taste. (I use none)
1 sliced hot sausage ( chorizo or maybe andouille) if desired.
*I use frozen (thawed) whole-kernel corn,baby green peas, and diced red pepper.
The main point is the mix of colors.
What to do.
If you use thread saffron, use a few ounces of the water to soak it
about 5 minutes before you begin. Put the rice, water, and saffron in the
skillet, set the heat to high, stir, and wait for it to boil. Turn
the heat down to a slow simmer, stir a last time if you like to fuss,
About five minutes before you expect the
rice to finish cooking, stir in the vegetables (and sausage if you go
that way) and spread the shrimp on top. Recover.
Check for done when the time is up. If
the rice is soft but there's still water in the bottom, leave the
cover off briefly to dry it. If the rice is a bit hard and the water
is gone, add a little (hot if you can) and cover for a while more.
Serve. It's a course in itself.
What to cook in.
I use a No. 7 cast-iron skillet (9.5" at the rim, 8" at the bottom).
It's about the right size, it's heavy enough to heat evenly, and I have
a matching cast-iron drip-drop cover, so water doesn't get lost if the
flame is a little high. For a double recipe, I use a No. 10 skillet with
a glass cover that doesn't seal the pouring lips. I start with a little
extra water to make up for the loss. Any pot with a large enough bottom
and that spreads heat well will do. Deep is OK, just harder to serve from.
Not all saffron has the same strength. Aside from intrinsic
differences, there are more ways to adulterate saffron powder than I
know. Saffron threads are the stigmas of a crocus flower. When
picked, they are partly white. Quality saffron is only the red end.
With threads, you can eyeball the quality (if not the strength). That
and (for some) the aesthetic appeal recommend its use, but I prefer
the ease of powder (no presoaking) when I'm sure of the quality. I get mine
at http://www.saffron.com/ an ounce at
a time. I give half of it to friends and family, and it's still cheaper than
buying for myself only at local stores. If you bake with their saffron, use
1/2 to 2/3 of what you're probably used to.
Fresh shrimp taste better, but they cost more and are more trouble.
Frozen cooked shrimp are OK and I prefer their taste and texture to
the ones frozen raw. When I start at the last minute, I thaw frozen
shrimp in a bowl of water. Peel the tails if they don't come peeled.
Salad shrimp can save you even that bother, but I like bigger ones.
I prefer the taste of brown rice, but pesticides accumulate in the
brown outer part, so I use white rice if I can't get organically
grown brown. Brown rice cooks a bit more slowly, and different
batches of any rice can vary. I find the the rice is done when all
the water is absorbed, whatever kind I use. Rice
cooks just fine even if you take the cover off to peek.
It's even OK to push a bit aside to see if there's still free water,
but don't stir.