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Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Part One of Three - Christmas Meals as Acts in a Play

The key to holiday cooking feasting for me is simple - organization.  The hurdle to organization?  Time.  However, organization = better time management.  Quite a cycle.

For our first Christmas celebration this year we would be traveling just about one hour from home to be with my husband's side of the family.  Typically this meal includes fish, seafood and pasta and so to compliment the menu and keep with the theme a modified Paella was in order.

For this dish I used:

18 Littleneck Clams
1 lb. mussels
1 lb. jumbo shrimp
1 lb. bay scallops
1 lb. chorizo
1 each green and red bell peppers
1/2 onion
several cups of clam juice
6 cups of cooked rice
2 cups diced tomatoes
Old Bay
Salt and pepper
* a few splashes of chicken broth may be added if the dish looks dry

The recipe begins simply with sauteed peppers and onions...

and while the vegetable soften, the mussels and clams soak then they are scrubbed and rinsed.

In addition to staying organized, I try to multi-task and while the vegetables soften, and the shellfish are cleaned, I also lightly carmelize a pan of bay scallops then peel cooked and cleaned shrimp.

The shellfish is then steamed in a tight lidded pan with garlic, parsley, butter and a bit of clam juice.  Once the shells are open they are placed in the large pot with the vegetables.

Chorizo (other sausages may be used to taste - I have even used Kielbasa) was also lightly browned with the vegetables.  Once the meat is heated through, deglaze the pan with a bit more clam juice.  All ingredients eventually end up in one giant pot.

Simple seasonings in addition to salt, pepper, and fresh garlic are:

It's starting to really look like a festive holiday dish now!

The shrimp and approximately one cup of raw tomatoes are left in a separate container to be served on the buffet line.  I have seen jumbo shrimp overcook and look (and taste) like rubber toys and so to avoid a culinary catastrophe I opt for an unusual serving method.

Rice is added to the mix which has been seasoned with the powdered gold of spices - saffron.

Two trays of faux paella are ready to be included in the buffet line up.  To me the final dish has a nice depth and a range of tastes and textures that lend themselves nicely to a celebration of family and the first of a few holiday meals.

The family is large enough to break into small groups of conversation and activities including, of course, the opening of the gifts.  However, about 7 adults took turns to peek in on the youngest family member (she will be 2 in April) as she took her evening bath.  We crammed in the bathroom with cameras and cell phones to tastefully and modestly film this event.  Odd?  Nah, it was a family moment that simply added to the atmosphere of being Fed Well during the holidays.

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