Any kind of rice can be used for this dish—long grain, medium grain, or short grain. Use what you have on hand.
- 1 (15-ounce) can pigeon peas (gandules), drained and liquid reserved
- 6 1/2 cups water, for soaking the rice
- 1 1/2 cups rice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces ham, diced
- 1 medium white onion, diced (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 large green bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 1 medium Roma tomato, diced (about 3/4 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons recaito flavor base, store-bought or homemade
- 1/4 cup tomato sauce
- 6 stuffed Spanish olives
- 1/2 teaspoon capers
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sazón seasoning, store-bought or homemade, optional
- 1/2 teaspoon oregano
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound peeled and deveined shrimp, tails removed
1 Rinse and soak the rice: Rinse the rise in a strainer under running water to remove the excess starch from the outside. In a large bowl, mix the reserved liquid from the pigeon peas with the water for soaking. Add the rice to the bowl and soak for 45 minutes.
When the rice has finished soaking, drain the water into a large pot on the stovetop, and turn the heat to medium-low. Keep it at a low simmer; you'll add this liquid to the asopao later.
2 Cook the ham and the veggies: In a 3-quart Dutch oven or similar large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the ham and brown it, about 3 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium. Add the onion, peppers, tomato, garlic, and recaito to the pot and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 6 to 8 minutes; or until the vegetables have softened and begin to form a thick, chunky paste.
Stir the tomato sauce, olives, capers, sazón, oregano, salt, and pepper into the paste, and cook for 2 minutes.
3 Add the rice to the pot: Add the rice into the pot and stir to thoroughly coat the grains in the sauce. Add the pigeon peas and the warmed, reserved soaking water.
4 Simmer the stew: Bring the stew to a gentle simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, stir the shrimp into the asopao and continue cooking, uncovered, for an additional 5 minutes.
5 Serve the stew: Serve promptly, as the stew will thicken the longer it’s left to sit. Thin the stew as needed with hot water or with chicken stock to maintain consistency and flavor, especially when reheating leftovers.