Veracruzans prize seafood salads made either with medleys of different kinds or with one particular variety of seafood. The version Zarela Martinez gives here, a good appetizer or first course, is based on her own happy experiences with many Veracruzan ensaladas de mariscos.
In dishes like this, garnished with raw onion, Martinez really values the freshness of Mexican onions, which are used much sooner after pulling than our common storage onions. Often, they are like the middling-sized pearly white onions with green tops still attached that you will find in some ethnic groceries as "bulb onions" or "spring onions" (don't confuse them with scallions). Red onions make a good substitute, especially the kind that are new looking and shiny, without papery skins.
Plus: More Seafood Recipes and Tips
6 cups fish stock or water
1 small white onion, unpeeled
2 garlic cloves, unpeeled
3 bay leaves
10-12 black peppercorns
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
1 pound shrimp (sold as 16 - 20 count) in the shell
Juice of 1 lime
3 tablespoons olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 fresh white onion (see above) or 1 medium-small red onion, sliced into thin
3 jalapeño chilies
1 ripe Mexican-type avocado (Hass or Fuerte), finely diced
10 cilantro sprigs, stripped of leaves
How to Make It
Place the fish stock or water, onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and 1 teaspoon of salt in a medium-sized saucepan or small stockpot. Bring to a boil over high heat, cook uncovered for 10 minutes to infuse with the flavors. Add the shrimp and cook, uncovered, for about 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink. Quickly cool by emptying into a colander set under cold running water. Drain thoroughly. Peel the shrimp and cut lengthwise into halves.
In a small bowl, combine the lime juice and olive oil with a generous grinding of black pepper and about 1/2 teaspoon more salt. Place the shrimp in a large bowl with the bulb onion, chilies, avocado and cilantro. Pour the lime juice dressing over the salad ingredients and toss to distribute evenly. Taste for seasoning and add a little more salt and pepper if desired. Serve at once.
VARIATIONS: The same recipe works well with virtually any kind of seafood, though each has to be cooked by its own optimum timing. For Ensalada de Calamares (Squid Salad) start with about 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of cleaned squid. Peel off the outer membrane and cut the squid into 1/2-inch chunks or rings. Cook as directed for shrimp, or until tender. Continue as directed.
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