Episode 109 - From Caracas to Lima

Asopao (Venezuelan “Paella”)


Other Recipes from Planet Barbecue Episode 109 – From Caracas to Lima

Popular throughout the Caribbean (especially Puerto Rico, where it’s the national dish) asopao translates roughly to “soupy rice.” But in truth, it’s a stew-like composite of paella, risotto, and gumbo. Chef Geronimo Lopez, who grew up in Venezuela but is now a restaurateur in San Antonio, recalls it was often served during Sunday family meals. Here is his take on this versatile dish, which can be made with just about any protein—or even vegetables.

Serves: 4 to 6
Method: Direct grilling
Advance preparation: 30 minutes to 2 hours for marinating the seafood


Asopao (Venezuelan “Paella”)


For the marinade and fish:

  • Juice of one lime, or more to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves
  • 2 1/2 pounds mixed seafood, such as mahi-mahi, shrimp, calamari, red snapper, octopus, etc., cleaned and trimmed
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the sofrito:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chorizo or other cooked or cured sausage, diced
  • 1 onion, peeled and diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and diced
  • 4 scallions, trimmed, green and white parts thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup finely minced fresh cilantro leaves

To finish the asopao:

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups short-grain rice, such as Bomba or Calispara
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds shellfish, such as Manila clams or mussels (optional)
  • 6 cups seafood stock, or more as needed (homemade or store-bought)

For serving (your choice of condiments):

  • Pickled red onions
  • Chimichurri or salsa verde
  • Aioli
  • Avocados
  • Chopped fresh cilantro
  • Lime wedges

Recipe Steps

1: In a medium bowl, combine the lime juice, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt. Whisk in the olive oil until an emulsion forms. Stir in the cilantro. Arrange the mixed seafood in a large nonreactive baking dish or bowl and pour the marinade over it. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes to 2 hours.

2: Make the sofrito: On the stovetop or side burner, add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil to a large cast iron skillet. Saute the chorizo and onion. Add the garlic, bell pepper, scallions, and cilantro and cook for 3 to 6 minutes. Set aside.

3: Set up your grill for direct grilling and heat to high. Brush and oil the grill grate.

4: Drain the seafood from the marinade (discard the marinade) and arrange on the grill grate. Season with salt and pepper. Grill, turning the proteins as needed with tongs, until each variety of seafood is nearly cooked. (It will finish cooking with the rice.) Remove and set aside. Cooking times will depend on the seafood you’ve selected.

5: Reduce the heat of the grill to 350 degrees.

6: Place a large deep skillet (cast iron) or Dutch oven on the grill grate. Heat 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in the bottom of the skillet. Add the rice and saute until it’s beginning to sizzle and turn translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Deglaze the pan with about 3/4 cup of white wine and let the alcohol cook off. Add the sofrito, then the shellfish, if using. Pour 4 to 5 cups of seafood stock into the pan and close the grill lid. Before the rice finishes cooking (10 to 15 minutes or more—it will swell and should be tender, but not mushy), add the grilled seafood to the pan. Add more seafood stock, if needed.

7: Serve hot in shallow bowls with your choice of condiments.

Recipe Tips

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