Chilled Caribbean Seafood Salad
For those who desire something different and unique in a seafood dish, the following recipe results in a multitude of flavors and textures unlike the standard table fare of fish, shrimp, or scallops. This is an easy entrée to fix for a lunch or a dinner, or it can be a side dish for a regular meal. A version of this salad as a meal is popular in Florida and in the Caribbean Islands.
Being flexible makes this dish palatable for most folks. Spices may be increased, decreased, or substituted depending on your guests and your preferences. Those with more mild taste buds might prefer to double the portion of Old Bay Seafood Seasoning and forego the Cajun/Creole spice and the jalapeño pepper. Yogurt can be the regular type from any supermarket or for a more unique taste, a Greek yogurt adds a new depth of flavor.
Any type of fish with a firm flesh works well in this as it is shredded after being cooked. Shrimp comes in various sizes which will determine cooking time. The scallops can be the quickly sautéed smaller bay scallops as shown in the accompanying photos, or the larger diver scallops that should be pan seared then cut into bite-sized pieces. Cooked crab can substitute for any of the previously mentioned ingredients or added to make a fourth seafood item
· 1/2 cup or a 5 oz. container of regular or Greek yogurt
· 1/2 cup Mayonnaise
· 1 Can of black beans – drained – low sodium preferred
· 1/2 Jalapeño pepper (optional), chopped very fine and de-seeded
· Juice of 1 lime
· 1 tsp. Cajun or Creole seasoning
· 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning
· 2 Tbsp. chopped Cilantro
· Salt and pepper to taste
· 1/2 head of lettuce, shredded
· 1/4 Yellow onion or 1/2 sweet onion (Vadalia) – finely diced
· 1 to 1.5 lbs of seafood – recommend fish, shrimp, & bay scallops
· 1/2 Bell pepper or Poblano pepper, chopped fine
· Vegetable oil or Olive oil for frying
· Butter (optional)
· 3 tsp. Old Bay or Cajun/Creole spice
Make the dressing first by mixing the ingredients in a bowl and covering with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour. Do not salt and pepper the dressing until it rests to allow the flavors to incorporate. It will taste differently when first mixed than it will 60 minutes later.
Remove the shells and deveine the shrimp, pat dry with paper towels and place in a small bowl. Add about 1 tsp. of your choice of seasoning and mix with your fingers to spice up all the pieces. Cover and refrigerate.
Dry the scallops with paper towels and put into a bowl with 1 tsp. of seasoning. Mix by hand to distribute the spice evenly. Cover and refrigerate.
Dry the fish filet and use 1/2 teaspoon of seasoning for each side.
Prepare an ice bath using a large mixing bowl with water and ice cubes. Insert a medium sized bowl inside the larger one to hold and cool the seafood quickly after cooking.
In a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat, add oil and pan fry the fish filet. Do not overcook, usually only a few minutes per side is all that is needed depending on the thickness. When it flakes easily with a fork it is done. Place filet in the center ice bath bowl to cool, then shred into medium size pieces using 2 forks.
Add more oil if needed and a pat of butter for richness and sauté the shrimp for about 2 minutes a side depending on their size. Do not overcook as they will attain a rubbery consistency; you want them to be tender. Place them on a cutting board and cut each shrimp into several pieces. Place the chopped shrimp in the ice bowl with the fish to cool
Use more oil if needed to sear the scallops. Smaller bay scallops cook very quickly. Stir and turn them often and do not overcook, then put them directly into the ice bowl. The larger Diver or Sea scallops require pan searing of about 3 or 4 minutes per side then cut each one into 4-8 bite-sized pieces.
In a large bowl add the shredded lettuce, the cooked and chilled seafood, and the dressing mixture. Carefully fold the ingredients together until mixed well. A spatula is recommended for this to minimize damaging the scallops, fish, or shrimp. Garnish with a sprig of whole fresh cilantro along with a wedge of lemon and a wedge of lime.
The best part of this whole meal are the accolades from your table guests who may have never tasted a combination of textures and seafood flavors such as these. Feel free to experiment with the spices and ingredients to suit you own tastes.
Courtesy of Bill Grannis