Sunday, October 26, 2008

Paila Marina! Viva Chile!

Travel holds many surprises. Yet for the person who cooks and loves to eat, the absolute best of all possible scenarios is an encounter with a chef who knows well the preparation of local specialities. Close to the Atacama Desert, clinging to a strand of beach there's a lovely little fishing village called Arica, Chile. A vibrant human presence in such an arid place is a bit of shock yet the village continues to surprise with locally produced melons, fragrant olives, ruby tomatoes, seafood empanadas, pastel de choclo and my favorite, a delectable shellfish stew bursting with prawns that is available throughout the country but never better then in Arica, PAILA MARINA! 

In the Central Market, you´ll find astoundingly fresh fish and shellfish pulled from the sea that morning. And situated at the interior, are a smattering of ¨Mom and Pop¨ eateries serving locals the dishes they love. Of the many, one easily stands out; "La Perla del Mar" (The Pearl of the Sea)! For years Chef Marcela Hernandez Barrera has been there cooking six days a week with a passion. Her PAILA MARINA is simply a marvel. Served with a typical Chilean bread (somewhat like a baking soda biscuit) and a glass of white wine. There is no room to want more.

Chef Hernandez shares her recipe:
2 Pounds of assorted shellfish
1 Pound of shrimp
1/2 Pound Firm fleshed fish cut into bite size pieces
1 Cup of fresh whole milk
1/2 Bottle Dry White wine
4 Cups Strong Fish Broth*
1 bottle Clam Juice
1/4 Cup Fresh Red Aji Sauce**
Olive oil
1/2 Onion finely chopped
2 Cloves of garlic (or more)
2 Medium tomatoes peeled and chopped
Oregano, black pepper & salt to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil. Add chopped tomatoes with juice, Aji Sauce, oregano, black pepper and salt. Reduce 10 minutes stirring occasionally. Clean shellfish, removing any sand. In a large pot heat fish broth and clam juice to just below boiling point, add sauted ingredients, fish, shell fish and shrimp. In a minute or two, when the seafood is just underdone, add the wine and milk and quickly serve in deep bowls to accomodate the shellfish. Garnish each bowl with a few drops of olive oil.

* Prepare the fish broth with a gift from your fishmonger of heads, tails, bones and fins. Add bay leaf.

** Aji Picante Sauce is made with the South American Chile called ¨Locoto¨. You may substitute with a fresh red chile sauce of preference or with diced red bell pepper for a milder dish.

Suggested Wine: Cousino Macul Sauvignon Gris, a dry Chilean white which delivers a lemon-lime flavour with just enough fruitiness to complement the Paila Marina. 

Copyright © Mick Huerta 2008. All Rights Reserved.
All Accordin' -
Travel, Culture, Food & Wine!

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