Chupe de mariscos (Shellfish stew)

The other day it hit me:  I only have two months left in Chile!  Aah!  Now I have to go have a real life and do adult things!  Nooooo!  Just kidding, I’m going to grad school!  Take that, real life!

Then I was hit by something else:  A desire to get to know Chile as well as I can in my remaining weeks, starting with the food.  Well, starting with a little town called Pomaire.

I went to Pomaire last year as part of a field trip for a Chilean culture class I took and found it to be too charming for words.  The entire town is filled with artisan potters who used a special kind of clay called “greda.”  It’s a dark, rich, brown clay that makes beautiful, sturdy pottery.  And it is CHEAP.  I bought these bowls and spoons for about $5.  Total.

The beauty of these bowls is that they’re strong enough to be put in the oven so you can cook individual portions inside them.  Mostly they are used for something called “pastel de choclo” which is a baked sweet corny meaty dish (coming soon) and chupe de mariscos. Chupe de mariscos is a shellfish stew with the consistency of oatmeal.  I know that description made it sound disgusting but trust me, if you’re a seafood lover you’ll love this dish.  My Chilean host mother made it for me last year and I fell in love.

I had absolutely no idea how to make this dish so I had to consult a recipe, here it is: http://www.terra.cl/gournet/index.cfm?pagina=recetas&id_receta=95

For those of you who can’t read Spanish, here’s the recipe in English.

32 oz. mixed shellfish (without their shells.  You can use crab, clams, scallops or anything you like)

2 onions

2 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 cups of milk

2 cups of bread crumbs

1 cup grated parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

Vegetable oil

The onions need tending to first.  Chop them up very fine and fry them in a little oil until they’re transparent.  Once they’re transparent add a little bit of boiling water to the frying pan and let it boil for less than a minute, then rinse the onions with cold water directly after.  This is so the onions don’t “repeat on themselves.”  (That’s what it says in Spanish but if I’m being honest I have no idea what that means.)  Set the onions aside.

Add your mariscos (shellfish) to a large pot on low heat.  Next add the garlic cloves (I like to smash them with the side of a knife to release the flavor) and the onions to the pot.  Add the milk and stir.  Keep an eye on the concoction and stir frequently, because you don’t want it to burn.  Once the mixture is just starting to boil take the garlic cloves out (unless you don’t mind biting into a clove, which I personally don’t) and add the bread crumbs and cheese.  If the mixture is too thick (you want it to be about the texture of cream of wheat or creamy mashed potatoes) add some boiling water and continue stirring.  Once it’s the texture you want it to be, preheat your oven to about 400 degrees.  If you have a setting where the heat only comes from the top of the oven, turn that setting on.

This is where my super cool Pomaire bowls come in.  If you don’t have bowls from a tiny town in Chile, don’t worry, all you need is something that can withstand the heat of the oven.  Portion the mixture evenly into the bowls and top with a layer of parmesan cheese.  Put the bowls in the oven until the cheese has nice browned on the top, probably about ten minutes.  Take the bows out and you have four individual little meals!  How perfect is that?

Spinach fettucine with seafood cream sauce

So, some of you might know that I’m an English teacher in Santiago, Chile and today was just the longest day everrr.  I finished a class at 2:30 and sat around until 5:30 for another class for administrators and guess what…  No one showed up. COOL.  So not only did I waste three hours of my life playing bubble spinner and following people on Twitter, I had to get home right in the middle of rush hour.  Rush hour in Chile on the metro is not so fun.

So I decided to alleviate some of my pain by making a stop at the gay BFF’s pad and we were talking and then one of them says “I’m gonna make pasta!”  And I was like “Great, I love pasta!”  And I got totally stoked for pasta.  And then he didn’t make it.

Which brings me to now, after a quick trip to the local grocery store, making this delicious pasta dish here in my own home and not sharing with anyone.

What I bought at the grocery store:

1 package of spinach fettucine

16 oz of choritos (okay, after some Googling it appears that these mollusks mostly only live in South America so I suggest you replace them with clams, or shrimp or if you don’t like seafood you can even use chopped mushrooms and if you don’t like any of those things I suggest you stop reading this recipe and order a pizza or something)

3 cloves of garlic, minced (I’ve said before that I like garlic more than I like most people.  If you don’t feel the same feel free to use less.)

2 tbs EVOO

2 cups heavy cream

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

1 tsp powdered onion

Pinch of nutmeg

2 tbs flour

2 tbs chopped chives (in Spanish they’re called “cebollin”, which is a cool word)

Hokay.  Here we go.

That pink liquid is my strawberry juice

Add the garlic, oil and choritos (or shrimp, or clams, or what-have-you) to a heavy saucepan and turn the heat up to med-high.  Let it simmer a bit, maybe five minutes, stirring frequently.  Next, add the cream and allow it to heat up for about five more minutes, still stirring frequently.  Add the parmesan, powdered onion and nutmeg.  Next add flour and make sure you stir with vigor!  The flour will clump easily and it’s not a bad idea to sift the flour before.  The flour helps the sauce to thicken.  Now add the chives.  Turn the heat down low and cover the sauce, stirring every minute or so to keep it from burning.

Now boil a large pot of water and add just a dab of oil to the water.  Throw in the pasta and cook it.  If the water is boiling it should only need about seven minutes.  After seven minutes drain the pasta and run it once under cool water to keep it from sticking.  You may then mix in the sauce or serve the pasta individually and top it with the sauce.  This recipe easily feeds four.

Hey, you did it!  Good for you!  NOW EAT IT!