Peter Seung Lee—executive chef at Santa Barbara’s beautiful, new and instantly popular restaurant, Loquita—learned his way around a kitchen at an early age. His early home life in Korea centered on pride and tradition that came with preparing the foods of his rich heritage. Helping his mother, he learned the art of Korean cooking and discovered his love for food. He worked in restaurants all through high school and eventually enrolled in and graduated from Le Cordon Bleu. He has had professional positions at Catalina Country Club in Avalon, El Dorado Kitchen in Sonoma, the acclaimed Gusto in Los Angeles and, under award-winning Joel Robuchon in Las Vegas.
At Loquita, Lee was inspired to design a menu that honors Santa Barbara’s history, employing many of the Korean-style techniques he learned as a child in preparing Spanish food, for which he is intensely passionate.
Loquita Mariscos Paella Makes 2-4 servings.
1 red bell pepper, small diced
1 Spanish onion, small diced
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
Heat olive oil in sauté pan and add onions. Caramelize for about five minutes and add peppers and garlic. Continue to cook on low-medium heat until fully caramelized, about 30 minutes
1 C Bomba paella rice
3 C seafood stock
2 TB tomato paste
2 garlic cloves
1 large egg yolk
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard
1/4 C extra virgin olive oil
3 TB vegetable oil
1 lb clams, in shell and cleaned
4 oz bay scallops
5 ea shrimp, cleaned and deveined, tails intact
3 pieces calamari, remove cartilage and slice into ¼” rings; cut tentacles into ¼” pieces if included (or ask your fishmonger)
4 oz tomato puree
Salt & pepper to taste
A pinch red pepper flakes
Place paella pan on medium heat till hot and add 2 TB of extra virgin olive oil and 1/4 C of soffrito. Cook until caramelized on medium heat for 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn. Add 2 TB of tomato paste and continue to cook until caramelized for 5 minutes on low, stirring and being careful not to burn.
Add 3 C seafood stock and the saffron and bring to boil. Once the mixture comes to boil, “rain” in the rice, spreading evenly throughout the pan. Bring back to a boil and add a pinch of salt, stirring rice to avoid premature sticking/burning.
Continue to boil on high heat until half the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally as liquid reduces. Lower heat to medium and let rice mixture cook without further stirring. The rice should not be disturbed at this point.
Rotate the pan every five minutes to avoid scorching from hot spots. Once all liquid is gone the sides of the pan will start to caramelize and there will be a sound of the rice crisping which is normal and desired. Test by using a small spoon and scrape a small spot in the rice to see stage of the socarrat (this is a layer of toasted rice at the bottom of the pan and highly desired). The socarrat should be a dark golden brown and feel stuck to the pan. Once it reaches this point, stop the cooking, if not, continue to cook until you reach this result. Turn off the heat and let the paella rest for a minimum of five minutes.
Heat a separate pan on high and add touch of extra virgin olive oil. Add the clams and sauté briefly with touch of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Add 1 C white wine and cover to open clams. Once clams are open, add bay scallops, shrimp, calamari and the tomato puree. Bring to boil and season with lemon, salt, and parsley.
To plate, add the seafood on top of the finished paella and garnish with a grilled or charred lemon and lemon aioli. For the best and most authentic presentation, serve in the paella pan.
This story was originally published in the winter 2016/17 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.