Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sexy Dishes? Cazuela de Mariscos al Coco (Crustacean Chowder)

This week Hippocrene Cooks shines light on the flavors of Colombia, with guest postings from Patricia McCausland-Gallo. Patricia, who formerly worked as a journalist in Colombia, is a veritable wealth of information on the country's cooking techniques, which you can scroll down and see in action for yourself!

The recipe I enjoy most in Secrets of Colombian Cooking is Cazuela de Mariscos al Coco or Crustacean Chowder. An original of the Colombian Pacific, it is usually prepared with clams from the ocean called piangua (or cockles), squid, shrimp and conch.

Conch is usually very hard to cook, and you will see fisherman hitting the shellfish meat with wooden hammers to break the tight muscles and soften up the meat. Squid, on the other hand, could be cooked for just 50 seconds and it would be enough, but here it cooks long enough for it to re-soften and leave a delicious flavor and texture in the final dish. The coconut milk in the recipes keeps the seafood at its peak even after 45 minutes of cooking time.

This is an ideal one-dish meal, along with a green salad, and can be a great Valentine’s day dinner, or a perfect meet-your-in-laws dish. You will have them on your side forever after they eat this marvelous soup! For those of you who would like to make it lower in calories, all you have to do is change 2 cups of coconut milk for 2 cups of 2% milk. It is a lighter version, yet delicious too.

You can also use the seafood that you have locally, or buy a mixture. In the picture of the recipe on the left, I added mussels just minutes before serving. Bring the Pacific flavor into your home and enjoy a wonderful meal. Serve it in coconut halves after a day at the beach in the summer, when the children need a hot soup to warm up their bodies.

Just try it once and you'll be hooked on it for life.
4 to 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion

1 cup grated red bell pepper (grated on the large holes)
2 pounds raw shrimp, cleaned and deveined
½ pound raw squid rings, cleaned
½ pound piangua or clams, cleaned
½ pound raw conch pieces or oysters
1½ fish bouillon cubes
2 tablespoons garlic paste
1 teaspoon color or Sazón Goya with Saffron
1¼ teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon pepper
4 cups coconut milk

2 cups milk
4 tablespoons flour
¼ cup white wine
1½ tablespoons minced cilantro
1 tablespoon minced parsley

NOTE: You can use a 2½ to 3-pound bag of mixed seafood in place of all the individual ones.

1) In a large, heavy pot or caldero over medium-low heat, place the oil, onion, red pepper, seafood, bouillon cubes, garlic, color or saffron, salt, and pepper. Cook for 12 minutes.

2) Mix the coconut milk, milk and flour together to a smooth consistency. Add them to the pot; simmer over low heat for 15 minutes more.

3) Next, add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes.

4) Sprinkle with cilantro and parsley and serve.

Need advice on substitute ingredients, or want to share your experiences with this recipe? Leave a comment for Patricia!

If you have trouble viewing the video, please click here.
Video and photos courtesy of Patricia McCausland-Gallo.


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