February 02, 2007

Seafood Ranchero

Well I promised a west-coast treat, and this is one of my favorites from a grocery store in Alpine, Ca. Daniel's Alpine Creek Market. We always just called it the creek. They had a great deli section, and one of their fish folks used to mix up a type of salsa they called "Seafood Ranchero". I could eat a whole tub of it in one sitting if I wasn't careful. It had teeny tiny shrimp in it, they called them bay shrimp. But here on the Chesapeake, I've never seen them. Maybe they're from the San Francisco bay. Folks here like big shrimp. Shrimp aren't used so much for an ingredient here, as they are the main dish, or a snack food. Around San Diego, they use those tiny shrimp everywhere. Shrimp burritos, shrimp dip, and of course, my favorite salsa. It's all good.

There's something else about this recipe that might make some Marylanders cringe. I use artificial crab meat in it. There's a good reason though, I picked some up today, I believe it was about 3.50 / lb, maybe less. A pound of good lump crab meat on the other hand, was going for around 27.00 / lb. Now you're putting this stuff into salsa. The other flavors are going to wreak havoc on that delicate sweetness that the real crab meat has. Use the fake stuff, it's mostly for texture.

One last thing -- I've seen holy wars break out on the internet over salsa. What makes a "real" salsa, what something should or shouldn't be called. I should tell you up front, -- I don't care. If you think this is more like Pico de Gallo, call it that, you won't hurt my feelings. If you think it's something else, call it that. Heck, for all I care you can call it french-fried apple danish. I really couldn't care less. -- But DO make it and try it. It's really delicious, and one of the things I missed the most when I first moved away from Southern California.

Some notes:
1. I run two of the three tomatoes through a chopper to get a better texture.
2. Chop the onion by hand. DON'T run it through the chopper. Don't chop it too fine, either. A food processor or mechanical chopper will cause a lot more cellular breakdown in the onion, causing more of the onion juice to be released, and the salsa will end up bland.
3. the serrano peppers should be chopped really fine. Use the chopper for them if you like.
4. I can't remember the count for the shrimp, but they should be really small.
5. You can add other seafood to it if you like. Fish, scallops, whatever.

OK, here's the recipe:

3 Big Tomatoes
1/2 - 1 onion
1/4 C. chopped cilantro
1-2 tomatillos
3 Serano peppers (seeded!)
1/2 - 1 clove of garlic (chopped)
2 tsp. cumin (more or less to taste, I probably use more)
juice from 1 Lime
1/2 lb tiny shrimp. (bay shrimp or salad shrimp)
1/2 lb imitation crab meat

Dice your tomatoes
Dice the onion
chop the peppers
quarter the tomatillos and put those through the chopper.
Take 2/3 of the diced tomatoes and chop them further in a chopper or food processor. Put the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, peppers, lime juice and garlic in a bowl and stir it all together.
If the shrimp are small enough, (about the size of your thumb nail) put them in whole. Otherwise, cut them in half or thirds, then put them in the bowl.
Put the imitation crab meat in a chopper or food processor and chop it up. Put it in the bowl.
Add the cumin
Stir everything up again.
Cover and put it in the fridge. The longer it cools, the better it gets.

No comments: