Christmas With Chef Flores ft. Seafood Paella

There is a very close relationship between seafood and I.  I was born in the coastal state of Colima, Mexico where seafood is abundant. While you can find delicious, fresh seafood in just about every grocery store, it is still pretty expensive to buy, which makes it a commodity to eat. I remember during Christmas and New Years Eve my parents would make us vote on what we wanted for the holiday dinner. Knowing we would choose seafood every time, they limited us to having seafood on either Christmas or New Years Eve. We would always choose seafood for Christmas dinner, and it would be a "Pescado Zarandeado". This is a whole bone in fish, split right in half and marinated in a red chili with garlic and lime, and is grilled on a bed of hot coals and basted with the mixture every couple of minutes on each side. This dish is to die for if you ask me.

This dish is to die for if you ask me.

My second favorite dish was always a seafood cocktail called  "Campechana". This is a mix of fresh oysters, fork tender octopus, shrimp, scallops, pico de gallo, avocado and lime juice, all swimming in a rich shrimp broth, served in a giant margarita glass with a side of corn tostada chips. I know it's a mouthful and a lot of work, but those two dishes made it always worth waiting for Christmas every year, apart from the presents of course. Nowadays I find it difficult to make those two dishes because it's usually too cold to be outside grilling a whole fish in the backyard or it's just a lengthy process with all the steps involved for the Campechana. Therefore, I always end up changing my mind last minute and go an easier route. Funny how my mom always made it look so easy...

Funny how my mom always made it look so easy...

So here is a recipe for my quick seafood paella:

3 cups cooked white rice (aldente)
14oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon spanish saffron
1/2 ea white onion diced
1/4 cup frozen green peas
3 tablespoons olive oil
10 oz shrimp (with shells)
8oz manila clams
8oz black mussels
1 1/4 cup clam juice
1 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/4 tablespoons spanish paprika
Salt and pepper

1. Start by heating up the olive oil in a large skillet.  Add in the garlic and onions. Saute until transparent. Add the saffron and paprika and saute for 2 minutes, then add tomatoes and bring to a simmer.  
2. Add the clam juice and season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Continue to simmer.
3. Heat oven to 425 degrees.
4. Meanwhile in an oven safe deep pan or dish, place the cooked rice and spread evenly at the bottom.  
5. Place the seafood on top of rice, randomly (make it pretty).
6. Add in the peas.
7. Using a ladle, pour the stew over the seafood uniformly and bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until the clams and mussels have opened up.