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  • Writer's pictureCulinary Cam

Choros a la Chalaca

After R's graduation ceremony from Baskin College of Engineering at UC Santa Cruz, we headed downtown to a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant. It was eight o'clock when we finally sat down to order and we were all starving. I actually pointed at the Peruvian Appetizers section and said, "We'll try one of each of these to start."



This is one of the dishes that arrived to the table. Since I didn't know what I had actually ordered, I grabbed the menu and asked her. "Choros a la Chalaca," she answered. I promptly ordered another serving since not everyone had tasted it; then, I took mental notes of tastes and textures because I knew that I wanted to re-create it.



I have since made this as an offering for friends who let us crash at their home on our way up to Modoc County, for a Fourth of July appetizer at a barbeque, for a lunch meeting, and several times in between. The process is simple and the results are delicious. I do mix it up with whatever I happen to have on hand. For instance, I have added sweetness with mangos; and when a friend told me she didn't eat raw onions, I substituted jicama for the same crunch and mouthfeel.


From my research, the traditional steaming liquid is water and Pisco. I have made it with gin and even fruit vinegars. Note that the mussels should be steamed the night before you plan to serve them...or, at least, four to six hours ahead of serving.



Ingredients

  • 2 pounds mussels, cleaned

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/2 cup other liquid (traditional is Pisco, I have used gin and flavored vinegars also)

  • 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

  • 1 tomato, finely diced, approximately 1 cup

  • 1/2 onion, finely diced, approximately 1/2 cup

  • 1 jalapeño, deseeded and finely diced, approximately 1-1/2 Tablespoons

  • Optional: 1/4 cup diced add-in such as mango, jicama, cucumber, or whatever you have on-hand; 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of hot sauce, if desired; lime wedges for serving

  • 1 teaspoon vinegar or freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil

  • salt and pepper to taste


Procedure

Place the water, other liquid, and garlic into a large pot with a lid. Bring to a simmer then add all of the mussels. Cover and steam for five minutes. Once all of the mussels are opened, remove them from the pot.


Bring the remaining liquid to a boil and reduce the cooking liquid by half. Once the mussels are cook enough to handle, remove and discard the half of the shell without the mussel. Place them in a container where they can lay flat in a single layer. When the cooking liquid is reduced, pour it over the mussels. When cooled, cover and refrigerate overnight or for, at least, four hours.


In a small mixing bowl, stir together the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño, and other remaining ingredients. Before serving, spoon the salsa over the mussels.



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