My grandmother bestowed many gifts on me—heirloom jewelry, precious old photographs, I’d like to think a smidgeon of her wit. But some of my most prized hand-me-downs are the boxes and boxes of china, glass, and silver I inherited first when she moved to the retirement home (‘where people go to die’, she would say) and then when she did eventually pass away (I guess she was right).
When we were going through her things I found the most beautiful relish tray that I had never seen before. It is stunning cut glass with etched images of fish, olives, vegetables, and pickles in each compartment, making clear for any nervous entertainer what exactly goes where. I’ve been trying to come up with something worthy of this tray for a long time and now with Easter around the corner I thought I’d share with you some of my fanciest nibbles to fill the slots.
There are several recipes here and all of them are fabulous on their own. The pickled onions are a vinegar-packed cocktail onion either for adding to a dry martini or munching on while sipping something sweet. They can be made a month in advance and benefit from at least a day or two in the fridge so I’d suggest making a batch just to keep on hand for any impromptu guests.
The requesón is my newest obsession I first read about on The Mija Chronicles. It is a fresh cheese made in Mexico that is very similar to Italian ricotta but made with bitter Seville orange juice instead of vinegar or lemon juice. I couldn’t find Seville oranges so I used half lemon and half orange juice with delicious results. When drained for a short period of time (30 minutes or so) it is creamy and tinged with flecks of orange zest and oregano. I’ve been spreading it on toast and topping it with avocado slices, olive oil, and salt. You can also drain it for longer (an hour or more) and it becomes crumbly and perfect for sprinkling over enchiladas, tostadas, or tacos.
The shrimp cóctel is Mexico’s version of (you guessed it) shrimp cocktail but instead of just using the sauce as a dip the shrimp gets marinated in the spicy tomato sauce and soaks up all the flavors of lime, chipotle, and Mezcal. You can serve it in the sauce along with some chunks of avocado, a good sprinkling of chopped cilantro, and a hefty squeeze of lime or as I did here, on its own.
I’d like to think this Easter Gram will be looking down on me with pride and feel like I did good by her relish tray. I won’t kid myself into thinking she would mow down some spicy shrimp cocktail—ABC dip was more her thing—but I hope she will be happy I put the platter to good use—breaking out the good china was her thing.
1 cup Seville orange juice or 1/2 cup lemon juice and 1/2 cup orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
1 teaspoon dried oregano
For the Shrimp Cóctel:
1 cup Clamato juice
1/4 cup lime juice
2 chipotles en adobo, chopped, plus 2 tablespoons adobo sauce from the can
2 tablespoons minced red onion
1 tablespoon Mezcal or tequila
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons hot sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 pound cooked, peeled, and deveined shrimp
Peeled, sliced avocado and quartered radishes drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt
Fresh or brined Mexican olives
For the onions:
Bring a small saucepan of heavily salted water to a boil. Add onions and let boil for 4 minutes.
Drain and submerge in ice water. When cool enough to handle, remove ends and peel skins. Place onions in a heatproof container.
Combine vinegar, garlic, salt, peppercorns, oregano, and cumin in the saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir to dissolve the salt then pour mixture over the onions and let cool.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 days, or up to a month.
For the Requesón:
Pour milk into a large saucepan and heat over medium heat to 190°F or until almost boiling, about 10 minutes.
Remove from heat and slowly add citrus juices, salt, orange zest, and oregano. Let sit 5 minutes.
Place a double thick layer of cheesecloth over a fine mesh strainer and set that over a heat proof container. Strain the milk mixture through the cheesecloth and let drain at least 30 minutes or up to 1 hour.
The liquid that is leftover is the whey. You can either throw it away or save for making smoothies or oatmeal or rice or any other number of grains. The requesón will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
For the Shrimp Cóctel:
Combine all the ingredients, except the shrimp, in a blender. Purée until smooth.
Pour over the shrimp and let marinate at least a hour before serving or up to overnight.