Salpicón means a lot of different things around the Spanish speaking world. These days, in Spain, it almost always refers to a seafood salad (the focus of this post) which is popular throughout many of the coastal regions of the country. Historically, it referred to various shredded meat preparations, often done with beef. In Latin America, different meat dishes are called salpicón, and in Colombia there is a fruit based salpicón. It has enjoyed a long history and evolution, and has been popular for a long time. Salpicón is even referenced in the very first paragraph of Cervantes’s El Quixote, though it’s not clear what version of the dish he wrote about.
I have eaten salpicón de mariscos in several different regions along the coast of Spain. Everyone does it slightly differently, but it always is a simple, light, deliciously refreshing seafood salad. The specific seafood will vary depending on what is in season and good at the moment, and different variations exist adding olives or parsley or other garnishes to the salad. I have always preferred this very simple one dressed with oil and vinegar, and with only seafood, onions, and bell peppers.
The bulk of the seafood is most typically poached, though obviously cook things like octopus and lobster in the way most appropriate for the ingredient. Use whatever seafood is good in the moment, and don’t overcook it! Seafood will have its best texture if it is cooked just barely until done and then cooled down.
For poaching liquid:
1 onion, peeled and cut in half
1 carrot, rough chopped
2 stalks celery, rough chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 bay leaves
4 or 5 whole black peppercorns
½ cup white wine
1 lb small squid, cleaned, body cut in rings, tentacles left whole
1 lb monkfish (or other firm meaty fish), cut in 1” cubes
1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 lb mussels, cleaned and debearded
¼ cup white wine
Cooked octopus, lobster, langostino, and/or crab, etc. cut into 1” pieces
One half red onion, peeled and cut in small dice
One red bell pepper and one green bell pepper seeded and cut in small dice
¼ cup sherry vinegar (or use apple cider vinegar)
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper TT
1. Add all of the ingredients for the poaching liquid to a medium sized pot. Cover with cold water, and bring up to a boil on a high flame. Reduce heat to simmer gently for 45 minutes to an hour, then strain out all of the solid ingredients and discard, returning the flavored liquid to the pot.
2. Poach the seafood: Bring the liquid to a gentle simmer, and poach the seafood in batches, one ingredient at a time. Carefully drop in the water, gently stir, and, when finished, remove and place in a bath of ice water to stop the cooking. When cool, strain and store covered in the fridge until needed. You can check doneness by removing a piece and tasting. Don’t overcook the seafood! Cook it all until only just barely done.
Calamari will only take about 30 – 45 seconds in the water.
Shrimp will take 2 – 3 minutes.
Fish will take 2 – 3 minutes, as well.
3. Cook the mussels: Get a heavy-bottomed pan hot on a medium-high flame. Add the mussels and the ¼ cup white wine, then put a lid on the pan. Let steam for about a minute then remove the lid. Quickly and carefully use tongs to pull out each mussel as soon as it opens. Set aside in a bowl or plate and allow to cool. When cooled enough to handle, remove the mussels from shells, and discard shells. Store the mussels covered in the fridge until needed.
4. Toss all of the prepared, chilled seafood together in a large bowl, along with the bell peppers and onions. Season well with salt and pepper, then mix in the vinegar. Let marinate for 3 to 5 minutes, then mix in the olive oil and serve.