Papalo Scallops & Corn

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When Miles (my younger son) came into the kitchen and asked quite intrigued: “What is that smell?” I pointed to the Papalo bunch sitting next to the sink.

Papalo is a native South American plant, also known as Papaloquite or porophyllum ruderale or macrocephalum. Its name comes from papalotl, —butterfly in Nahuatl and interesting (to me) in French butterfly is papillon!— The first time I encountered papalo was at a flea market Upstate New-York. A Mexican vendor was getting ready to sell Guarachas*—a dish I wouldn’t mind getting more info on. The women were setting up while the men were all sitting down having lunch. I noticed them picking leaves from the middle of the table and eating little bites with their grilled meat and tortillas.

guaracha

I ordered a Guaracha, I had to ask for the leaves as I wasn’t automatically given some. The lady was a bit surprised as she explained — nicely — that gringos didn’t usually care much for it. She was delighted I would try it as it was the way to eat this dish. It was love at “first bite!”; the grilled meat seasoned with lime, the green salsa, the Mexican cheese all topping a homemade corn tortilla —that looked to have had some beans worked into the dough, and the little bite of papalo to make it a truly “gastrorgasmic” moment. Papalo’s taste is condensed, pungent and close to be an entrancing flavor. It must be used appropriately and parsimoniously.

Harold from Carral FarmA few weeks ago I got some papalo from Harold, owner of Carral Farm and a regular vendor at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket. He also gave me some suggestion on how to use it and recommended to also get some  Anaheim peppers. I picked up a pound of fresh scallops at American Seafood (read previous blog on scallops here and here). And this is the recipe I will share with you today:

Scallops With Sautéed Corn and Papalo (for 3)

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1 lb of fresh scallops
2 Tablespoon unsalted butter
1 lime juice
kernels of 2 fresh ears of corn
1/4 cup red bell peppers
1/4 cup sweet onions
1/8 cup green Anaheim peppers
9 leaves of fresh papalo
2 Tbsp brandy or Lillet
1 dollop butter at room temperature

Heat 1 Tbsp of olive oil and 1 Tbsp of butter in a stainless still or cast iron frying pan.

scallops

Sear scallops delicately  in the pan or about 3 minutes or so per side —it will depend how thick they are. Do not overcook them. Keep them warm between two plates and reserve until ready to serve.

While the scallops are cooking, sautée all the vegetables (with only 3 leaves of papalo chopped) lightly with olive oil or/and butter (see picture above to see size of veggies).

Déglaze the pan with some brandy or Lillet.  Add lime juice  and retrieve all the juice that have deposited in the scallop plate.

monter sauce

Add a dollop of soft butter and when only ready to serve  “monter la sauce au beurre” —that is to swirl in, until completely melted, a dollop of room temperature unsalted butter; it will give your sauce a velvety texture and a rich flavor. We have done it before, right? Add salt & pepper to taste and voilà!

*The guaraches turned out to be huaraches. See comments below and huraches blog.

Look at me Porgy!

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Last night we ate porgies. I bought them at the Bay Ridge Greenmarket from the excellent Long Island Sound based American Seafood stand. I prefer whole fish to fillet or steak. One of the reasons is that I like to look the fish in the eye. If the eye is clear, bright with dense black pupil & looking back at me I see/hear “buy me!” If the eye is cloudy, dry and sunken, the message is that this fish has been on display away from the water for too long. Other general indicators of fish freshness are:
The skin must be moist and shiny.
The gills need to be bright red or pinkish red. When pressed with the finger, flesh should bounce back and leave no indentation.
Fresh fish smells like fresh seaweed, any strong odor is suspicious. If the fish smells, even slightly, like ammonia discard it —I once worked with a chef who asked me to “bathe” the fillet we were to serve as “specials” that night in vinegar & water to make the smell disappeared! I refused.

porgy

As you can see my porgies were beautiful and cost me $5. Buying a whole fish is much cheaper by the pound. Yes! it is more work as you will have to debone it yourself.  There is also more waste, but what about a fish soup with the bones? I will give you that recipe later. Also, below you will find a quick homemade video on how to serve your fish. I would appreciate if you have a few minutes to give me feedback on the specific questions.
Meanwhile, voilà today’s recipe:

2 Porgies (1 guted & scaled fish per person of 1/2 lb or so)
1 sweet onion peeled and sliced very thin
1 Italian or Jalapeño pepper, inside seeds and rib removed and chopped very small
1 bunch of fresh cilantro
2 ripe tomatoes
1 glass of dry white wine
1 or 2 limes
Salt
½ cup olive oil ¼ cup of butter
Preheat oven to 375º.
Coat the bottom of an ovenproof dish with olive oil. Arrange the onions & hot peppers.

stuffing porgies with cilantro

Add the tomatoes.
Add white wine. Make 2 slits on the fish.
Salt the inside of the fish, squeeze some lime into it & stuff with a few sprigs of fresh (well washed) cilantro.
Insert slices of lime into the slits on the fish.
Pour the juice of ½ a lime over. Scatter tiny pieces of butter on top of the fish.
Put in the oven for 25/30 minutes.
Baste the fish every 10 minutes with the liquid in the pan.

We ate them with corn on the cob and a beet salad. More details on the video on how to serve it.

How to serve the whole fish family style:


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