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Sometimes considered a comfort food, paila marina is a type of traditional Chilean seafood stew that is contains both fish and shellfish, many of which are cooked and served in their shells. Some seasonings and vegetables are also included in this stew, but the primary ingredients consist of various local, fresh seafood. The term paila refers to the type of shallow earthenware bowl in which the stew is usually served.
Garlic and onions are usually found in paila marina. Carrots, red and green pepper, and tomato may also be included. The liquid base is usually a fish broth or stock that is often combined with white wine. Spices are scarce, generally only consisting of simple salt and pepper and sometimes paprika.
Any sort of white fish can be included in this dish. Cod is suggested, but Patagonian toothfish, known colloquially as Chilean sea bass, is the most popular choice. The toothfish is not actually a species of bass and only bears its common name for the benefit of commercial marketing.
A wide variety of shellfish serves as the backbone for paila marina. Mussels and clams, both in their shells, are a staple, and scallops and crab, both usually shell-less, are also common. Shell-less clams and shrimp are often found in this dish as well. More unusual seafood ingredients include octopus or squid, abalone, and picoroco, a type of barnacle. Often, paila marina will contain seven or eight different types of seafood.
Despite the high number of ingredients, paila marina is relatively simple to make. The onion and any other vegetables that are to be included are heated in olive oil before the garlic, salt, and pepper are added. Afterward, the fish and and clams are added, then the wine and broth. The mixture is allowed to simmer before the other seafood is included, and the stew is cooked until the clam and mussel shells open. Any shells that do not open once the dish is complete should be discarded before serving.
To serve, the stew is spooned into earthenware bowls and may be briefly heated in the oven afterward. Parsley or cilantro and heavy cream often serve as garnish. Lemons are usually served on the side.
Paila marina is usually found on the menu in Chilean restaurants. The native dishes, however, are more gritty than those found in the United States because of a difference in feeding the various shellfish. Therefore, those unused to South American seafood might find the otherwise tasty dish unpalatable.