This weekend one of my regular customers put me out to a real test. American but married to a Puerto Rican, she called me with a last minute request for a small gathering she was hosting for a a small group of friends. “I want something traditional with a twist but accompanied with something really authentic”, she said. “How authentic you want the other thing to be?” I asked her. “Something that screams Puerto Rico”, she said. And for some reason and out of the blue, crabs came to mind.
In my opinion, no other dish screams Puerto Rico lauder than Salmorejo de jueyes (crabmeat salmorejo). It is all, traditional, authentic and very popular; from the mountains down to the beach kiosks all over the island. It is served in different ways, as an appetizer, as a main dish served with root vegetables or as the preferred filling for fritters. It is like comfort food. In the mountains they use land crab and in the coast they use blue crab. They both come from the same family of crabs and are harvested locally; even in the backyards of private homes.
The name Salmorejo comes from a Spanish dish made from a very tasty and thick tomato paste based stew. So thick that you can eat it with a a fork. The most popular Salmorejo in Spain is the Salmorejo de Conejo, (rabbit salmorejo). How or when the crabmeat was incorporated into this dish is unknown; however, whom ever came out with the idea is considered a genius in my books.
For her order, I incorporated the Salmorejo de jueyes with yucca (cassava); another traditional root vegetable, into an appetizer I called it Nidito de yucca con Salmorejo de jueyes. (Cassava nest with crabmeat salmorejo). Here is the recipe for that appetizer.
Total time – about 1 hr.
Yield – 4-6 servings
Serving suggestion – as an appetizer or side dish.
- 12 ounces crabmeat, which may be fresh, canned (drained) or frozen (thawed)
- 1 teaspoonful of ground garlic
- 1 1/2 tablespoonfuls of chopped onion
- 2 or 3 olives, chopped
- 1 tablespoonful chopped green peppers
- 1/2 tablespoonful chopped red peppers
- two drops ofTabascosauce
- 1 tablespoonful of olive or cooking oil
- 1/3 cup tomato sauce
- 1/2 cup water (or substitute with 1/2 cup white wine!)
- 1/3 teaspoonful of salt
- 1 lbs of yucca
- Chicken broth
- Grated Parmesan Cheese
For the cassava nest
The cassava nest is made from mashed cassava. Wash and peel the cassava using a potato peeler. Then cut into chunks, put them in a saucepan with salted water enough to cover them. Bring it to a boil and cook until tender; about 30 min. Drain and remove the wick-like core from the cassava. In a mixing bowl, mash the cassava the same way you would mash potatoes; with butter and adding the chicken broth little by little until you reach the right consistency. Not too dry, not too wet. Set aside.
Note: you can also use frozen cassava.
For the Salmorejo de jueyes
Sauté all ingredients except the crabmeat over medium heat for about two minutes, stirring continuously. Add the crabmeat, stir, and cook, covered, for 15 minutes over low heat. Stir and let stand for a few minutes, covered.
Putting it all together
You are going to need 4-6 ramekins or similar kind.
Grease the bottom and sides of each ramekin with butter.
Make the cassava nest by pouring in enough of the mashed cassava to cover the bottom and around the ramekin; pressing firmly with a spoon.
Pour in the Salmorejo de jueyes and leave some space on top.
Cover that space with more of the mashed cassava.
Sprinkle with grated Parmesan Cheese
Bake at 375 degrees for 3-5 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot.
Later that evening my client called to thank me for the memories. It happened that all of her guests were Puerto Ricans and the Salmorejo de jueyes triggered a long night of anecdotes and stories among her friends. What a coincidence, it had the same effect on me while I was preparing me. A lot of good memories ran through my mind. And that’s what comfort food it’s all about.
For great party trays and dinner packages ideas visit us at www.piscolabiscatering.com