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Course: main course
Total time: under 2 hours
Skill level: Moderate
Cost: Splurge
Yield: Makes 4 main-course servings
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Notes

You can make this soup with the headless shrimp you find at any fish store, but it will be far more flavorful if you can find shrimp with the heads still on, usually in an Asian market or by ordering them in advance. You can also save shrimp shells in the freezer and when you have about a pound, use them to make the broth.

The tastiest (and most expensive) shrimp are pink or white shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico. You can also make this soup with other crustaceans such as lobster or crayfish by lightly pre-cooking them, taking the meat out of the shells, breaking up the shells with the front of a cleaver or rolling pin, and simmering the shells in the same way the shrimp shells are simmered here. The mussels, cooked directly in the liquid, release their briny juices into the soup.

Ingredients

  • 16 extra large or jumbo shrimp, preferably with heads (or more if the shrimp are smaller)
  • 2 pounds small cultivated mussels
  • 1/3 pound cured and/or smoked chorizo sausages (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium-size onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tomatoes, coarsely chopped, (don’t bother peeling or seeding)
  • Bouquet garni containing 5 fresh thyme sprigs (or ½ teaspoon dried), 1 bunch of parsley, 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 medium-size onions, preferably sweet onions such as Vidalia or Maui or Walla Walla, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 dried ancho or ñora chili, dust wiped off with a damp towel, stemmed, seeded, soaked for 30 minutes in hot water, and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 medium-size tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped, or 1 28-ounce can, drained, seeded (by pushing your thumb into the side of each tomato and squeezing), and chopped
  • 1 cup Spanish Calasparra or Bomba rice, or risotto rice such as Vialone Nano or Arborio
  • 1 large pinch of saffron
  • 2 teaspoons hot Hungarian paprika or Spanish pimentón
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Directions

If you have shrimp with heads, twist them off and peel and devein the bodies, reserving both heads and shells in the refrigerator. Otherwise, just peel and devein the shrimp and reserve the shells in another bowl in the refrigerator. Scrub and rinse the mussels, pull off any beards sticking out the sides, and reserve in the refrigerator until needed. Slice the chorizos into rounds between 1/8 and ¼ inch thick.

PREPARE the broth: Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and stirring in the onion and garlic. Cook until the onion turns translucent but doesn’t brown, about 5 minutes, and stir in the shrimp heads (if you have them), the shells, and, if you don’t have heads, any shells you’ve saved up in the freezer. Break up the heads and shells with the end of a European-style rolling pin (the kind without the handles) or the front end of a cleaver with the handle held sticking straight up. Continue breaking up the heads and/or shells for about 5 minutes and stirring them around until they turn orange and smell fragrant.

Add the tomatoes, bouquet garni, and 6 cups of water (you could also use chicken broth) and simmer for 30 minutes. Work through a food mill or strainer (if you’re using a strainer, push hard with a ladle or wooden spoon to extract the juices) and reserve.

Discard the heads and/or shells.

PREPARE the soffrito: Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot and stir in the onions. Stir the onions until they soften and begin to caramelize. If the onions start to brown before 15 minutes, turn down the heat—they should only caramelize after they’ve completely softened and the sweet juices are released into the pan.

Chop the chili very fine, into a paste. Stir the chili and garlic into the caramelized onions and stir over medium heat for 3 minutes more.

Stir in the tomatoes and reserved broth.

BRING the mixture to a simmer and pour in the rice (Spanish cooks insist it shouldn’t be rinsed). Stir the rice only once or twice during the cooking (too much stirring will cause it to release too much starch), moving a wooden spoon along the bottom of the pot to make sure the rice isn’t sticking. Stir in the saffron and paprika and return to a simmer. Simmer the rice, covered, for about 15 minutes—bite into a grain to make sure it is very close to being done—and add the mussels.

Simmer, covered, until the mussels open, about 5 minutes, then add the shrimp and chorizo. Simmer for 2 minutes more. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper and ladle into heated bowls, making sure everyone gets an equal share of shrimp and mussels.

SUGGESTIONS AND VARIATIONS

Spanish rice soups are great made with fish (the broth made with the heads and bones, the fish filets added minutes before the soup is done) and poultry (broth made with chicken stock, chicken parts browned separately and almost completely cooked in olive oil before a 5-minute simmering in the soup). Green vegetables—peas, green beans, spinach, and chard (shredded)—can be stirred into and cooked directly in the soup, essentially turning it into a one-pot meal.

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Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving

Nutritional information is based on 1/8 teaspoon added salt per serving.

231mcg RAE (8%)
826kcal (41%)
79g
34g (53%)
8g (42%)
58mg (97%)
19g
1477mg (62%)
154mg
7g
49g
1780mg
160mg (16%)
14mg (78%)
139mg (46%)
826kcal (41%)
1477mg (62%)
79g
7g
34g (53%)
0g
8g (42%)
18g
5g
139mg (46%)
19g
49g
154mg
1778mg
229mcg RAE (8%)
58mg (97%)
160mg (16%)
14mg (77%)