Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Mariscada { Seafood }

My mother is a magician in the kitchen. I'm pretty sure she was born wielding a colher de pau (wooden spoon) or, as we lovingly knew it as children, "o colher POW!" The pow part was aimed at your bottom but we did a good job of staying away from those types of situations. Ahem!

Like I was saying, she's an amazing cook thanks to a lifetime of practice. She's the second eldest daughter from a family of ten surviving children. That's a lot of responsibility and hungry mouths to help feed. They didn't grow up eating anything fancy on the farm in Portugal - mostly rice, beans, bread, and boiled vegetables. A lot of things that I take for granted at the grocery store had to be grown or butchered. She can peel a potato in 20 seconds with a blade. Bad @$$.

It wasn't until she married and things settled down that she began cooking the more iconic meals of her country, like carne de porco à Alentejana, bolos bacalhau, and paella.  I was lucky enough to be raised enjoying these dishes for special occasions and holidays. If there was shrimp in the fridge, you knew people were coming over. Thanks mom!

That being said, this post centers around my brother's birthday! Mom and I pulled out all the stops with mariscada (mix of seafood- what did I say about that shrimp!) and her version of fried chicken. I was able to find some frozen pasteis de nata at the European Foods Import store and whipped up a tasty Rum-Kissed Banana Butterscotch Cream Tart.

In this post, I'm going to focus on the mariscada but don't sleep on the chicken- Mike's infatuated with mom's recipe. The bird is seasoned with salt, red pepper, and black pepper, coated in flour, dipped in egg, then coated tempura. Fry that bad boy slow and slow. That's it. It's really simple and keeps the meat tender and juicy. 

In this version of mariscada, we kept the rice and seafood separate because it's not paella or arroz con marisco. In those recipes, the rice is cooked with the water used to boil the clams and mussels then everything is mixed together in one big pot. I prefer keeping the seafood separate because it's nice to control the ratio. Plus, it's awesome to grab a big hunk of bread and scoop up all of the olive oil at the bottom of the pot. 

The following are general guidelines as cooking is less of a science and more of a "pinch here" and a "dash there" in our house. 

serves 4

Cooked long-grain rice of your choosing, enough to serve 4
2 (5 ounce each) lobster tails, shell on
1 pound large shrimp
1 pound sea scallops
olive oil
1 medium white onion, chopped
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper, add more if you like it hot
sea salt
1-2 bay leaves
pinch of yellow saffron (optional)
1/2 cup chicken bouillon cube mix preferably, but chicken broth could work (optional)

Per the directions for the rice of your choosing, make the rice first since it takes the longest to cook. 

Make the sofrtio: coat the bottom of a heavy bottom pan or dutch oven in olive oil on medium-low heat. Add the chopped onion until it beings to very lightly brown, then add the garlic, bay leaf, and crushed red pepper. Cook until the garlic starts to golden. 

Add 1/4 cup water. Split each lobster tail in half and place with the meat-side down into the olive oil and cook through, 4-5 minutes. You'll know it's done when the meat turns white and the shell turns a vibrant shade of red (see the last photo of this post as a reference). 

Add the shrimp and sea scallops. Season with white pepper, about 1/2 a teaspoon. Cook evenly so that both side of the shrimp are a nice shade of pink. Add a pinch of saffron if you crave that beautiful yellow color; season with salt to your liking.

If you want the base to be more saucy, heat enough water to cook a chicken boullion cube. Pour 1/2 cup to the seafood mix as a starting point. Don't add too much or it's going to become a bowl of soup!

Serve with rice, crispy bread, and salad.