Paella’s Long-Lost Cousin


So to speak. When the Spanish Empire was in full swing, the mother country influenced much more than just political affairs. She kept matters culinary within her orbit too. Local ingredients and techniques offered countless varieties, but they all flowered from a common inspiration.

Such is the case with Caracas-Style Rice with Shrimp. Sure, it differs enough from paella to warrant its own mention. Take away the chicken stock and add sofrito. Switch the variety of proteins to all-shrimp and do without the special pan (sigh). Still, it’s Venezuela’s version of paella. Down to the Valencia rice that builds the meal.

However, the Caracas variation is unique enough to have its own recipe, which was found on Enri Lemoine’s website. While today’s offering and paella share many ingredients in common, there are multiple differences here too. Given considerably distinct cooking techniques as well, and the Venezuelan riff brings a whole new experience. Just as delicious, though.

Today’s preparation includes a special seasoning, vegetable bouillon. The recipe calls for not just any bouillon either, but specifies Knorr brand. Now, this blog usually doesn’t use many prepared ingredients, much less one not native to the region, but the instructions were adamant on that point. Maybe Knorr has become ubiquitous in Venezuelan kitchens. Maybe not, but here it is anyway, or at least the closest version available locally:

Another difference is in the stock, or lack thereof, in which the rice simmers. For paella, chicken broth gives the flavor a head start, and it builds from there. In Caracas, cooks start with searing the shrimp in oil. After that, the shellfish is removed, but not before it gives the oil a beautiful flavor. Then come the sofrito ingredients, one at a time, and starting with the onions. Each addition adds a layer and enriches the complexity.

About halfway through the cooking process, it’s time to shake in the vegetable seasoning. It’s only a couple teaspoons, but they transform the dish. The seasoned vigor enhances the shrimp’s brininess without distracting from its excellence. Knorr adds more than a dash of Venezuelan excitement. Not bad for a Yanqui.

You’ll see eventually the original Valencian paella has so much to recommend it, though Caracas’s take provides many of the same savory comforts, while throwing in enough tantalizing spirit to make even the most homesick Spaniard glad to be knee-deep in the Caribbean. Not just Spaniards, but everyone. Good cooking converses eloquently in the local tongue, and Venezuela’s Rice with Shrimp speaks comforting paella with an azure flair.

*****

On Spoonflower, designer C. Wren offered the creation “Venezuelan Racetrack.” Matches today’s theme, huh?

*****

Caracas-Style Rice with Shrimp

  • 6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • coarse sea salt
  • 1 pound shrimp, mostly peeled, yet retaining the tail
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped (*1)
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 cup tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons Knorr Selects Vegetable Bouillon (*2)
  • freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1-and-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup carrots, finely diced
  • 1 cup Valencia rice
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 2 tablespoons finely-chopped fresh parsley (*3)

Season the shrimp with salt.  In a deep skillet set over medium-high heat, heat half the olive oil and and sear the shrimp, stirring and flipping them, until they turn opaque and bright coral, around 3-4 minutes.  Reserve the shrimp in a bowl.

Lower the heat to medium and add the rest of the oil to the same skillet.  Sauté the onions and garlic until wilted, about five minutes.  Add the red pepper and cook for three more minutes.  Then add the tomatoes and cook for an additional three minutes.

Season the sofrito with the bouillon, and a teaspoon of coarse sea salt, and stir.  Add the rice and stir.  Add the wine, stir, and cook until the liquid has been absorbed almost completely.

Add the water, stir, and bring to a boil.  Once it does, lower the heat to medium-low and cook covered for fifteen minutes.

Stir in the shrimp, then add the green peas, stir and cook, covered for three more minutes.  Sprinkle with olive oil and chopped parsley and serve.

NOTES:

1 – Sorry, I was snorkeling.  The recipe said “shallots,” right?  

Oh, and a word or two about the “finely-chopped” the recipes suggests.  Ignore it.  

Well, not quite, but remember, “minced” and “finely chopped” are two different things.  Even the pictures Enri snapped for her own site show dime-sized veggies.  Save yourself considerable time and stop far short of a mince.  For illustration, consult this week’s photo.

2 – Something called, exactly, “Knorr Selects Vegetable Bouillon” may be available in some areas, but it isn’t around here.  Not even the vaunted Amazon carries that exact title. 

Still, the “Knorr Vegetable Bouillon” (minus the “Selects”) gets really close.  In fact, it may be the same thing.

3 – Or, how about cilantro?  Much better-tasting, and much more likely to be used in Venezuela.       

12 thoughts on “Paella’s Long-Lost Cousin

    1. Gracias, Crystal!

      Include me among the parsley skeptics. its bitterness has a similar effect on all it touches. Sure, it looks nice, but so do cilantro or Italian parsley prepared in the same manner.

      My preferring almost any other allium to onions has become part of the lore around here. For good reason,, too. That said (or, er, that typed), I don’t dislike onions – it’s just that I much prefer shallots, leeks, scallions, etc.

      The same can’t be said of parsley, though. I don’t like it at all!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. A beautiful and delicious-looking dish! Good call on the parsley/cilantro substitute. I wonder still if the Venezuelans use the Shado Beni that is so popular here, considering the close proximity. It’s one of the most distinctive aspects of Trinidadian cuisine, as I’ve been learning.

    I added you on Instagram. I posted to my Instagram account for the first time in well over a year. Need to keep up with social media more!

    The table linen is really beautiful. Complements the dish perfectly!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much, JoAnn! Personal taste made the substitution obvious, as I really dislike curly parsley. There – much better now.

      By the way, what’s Shado Beni? Sure, I could look it up, but as it’s a bit of local flavor now, I’m sure your description will outshine Wikipedia’s.

      As for Instagram, I’m headed there next. I can’t wait to see what you have!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh now I must post a photo of Shado Beni soon. It’s their local species of coriander, also often called culantro. It’s a distant cousin of cilantro and tastes similar but with a slightly different flavor… some say it’s more pungent but there’s something else different about it that might be hard to explain… more earthy perhaps? Anyway it’s quite delicious. I think they do sell it in America or at least I was able to find it in Florida. I never truly appreciated the difference though until I came here. The joy of local food I guess! 🙂

    And I do love talking about food, as I know you do 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the evocative description, JoAnn! Now that I know Shado Beni is culantro, your thumbnail jibes with my own impressions.

      Believe it or not, I actually grew culantro several summers ago, to use in a few Cambodian dishes. I even borrowed my mother’s humidifier, which gave the plant the tropical moisture it craves. In fact, I still have a photo somewhere on the computer.

      Speaking of which, it’d be great if you posted your own photo of Shado Beni. You’ve supplemented your IG page lately, so how about there? Or maybe you’ll feature it elsewhere. Surprise me, Trebek!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I do believe you. By the way are you sure you’re not my long lost twin or something… smarter and more sophisticated of course. From the sounds of it you might be a tad older than me too though so I’m sure that couldn’t be so.
        Yes I will definitely have to post a photo and I would love to see yours that you grew with your mother’s humidifier! 🙂
        I think you have my email address if you don’t feel like posting it publicly or there is always Instagram like you said. There’s a lot of Shado Beni growing wild around here so maybe I can get a photo of that 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Well, remember how I mistook you at first for my cousin Joanne? So…we’re not twins, but cousins sorta. In a way. Of course, until the situation defined itself, I wondered why Joanne suddenly changed the way she spelled her name,

        This weekend I looked for that picture I snapped of the culantro, I didn’t find anything, though I haven’t searched in earnest yet, either. This blog launched in summer 2016, and the first year or so I took pictures with a digital camera, not with the phone. Both the camera and the computer on which this journal started are long gone, which explains why nothing’s in the “Food Blog” folder. Still, I think the WP archives go back all the way to the beginning, meaning I can copy the photo from that.

        If I can retrieve it, I’ll post the photo on IG. Of course, I’ll tag you on it too. The resolution may not be as sharp as it is now, but it will achieve its basic purpose.

        I look forward to seeing your pictures too. If you publish them on WP I’ll see them, as I’m following you there too.

        Do me a favor, though, OK? If you publish the picture(s) please, tag me. Believe it or not, nobody has “tagged” me or “pinged” me yet, and I’m curious what it’s like to receive something. Many of the Spoonflower artists asked me to show them what I’ve created, and I’d like to see what it’ll look like when I send them something.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Lol, I do remember that now. I barely remember what happened yesterday so that’s pretty good, although with a similar name that does make it easier.

        No worries on the photo. I haven’t had a chance to take any photos either. We finished off the rest of our Shado Beni the other day when I made spaghetti and haven’t gotten anymore yet.

        Tagging on IG? I think I can handle that. By that I mean it doesn’t sound like it should be difficult. Definitely will tag you if I post it. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh, I didn’t know I missed a couple of your recipes. 😔 Well, I am here now! 😃 And I am glad to be at your place because this is another gift you have given to your viewers in this magnificent recipe!

    I don’t like shellfish, but I always substitute with other foods and still turns out yummy. 😋

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Much appreciated, Tamara!

      Completely understand about the shellfish, and I’m sure you know I’ll suggest chicken in replacement. Naturally. Do you expect anything less?

      I do try to rotate through the proteins. Not just for variety, though there is that, but because it keeps the possibilities…infinite. That said, pork is only an occasional visitor, though this week is one of those occasions. Sometimes I even go vegetarian.

      Of course, as you know, poultry and shellfish are the leading entrants. Even better, as they often may be interchanged.

      Liked by 1 person

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