serves: 6 servings
This is one of those dishes you can take in any direction you like. You can use whatever seafood is available - scungilli (sea conch), crabmeat, scallops, or any firm fish fillets. You can use lemon juice in place of part or all of the vinegar and dress the salad up with capers, black olives, roasted peppers, or diced tomatoes.
However you make it, its bets prepared about 1/2 hour before you serve it, to give the flavors a chance to develop. You can refrigerate the salad, but not for too long. And be sure to bring it to room temperature and check the seasonings before you serve it.
For the court Bouillon
2 quarts water
½ cup dry white wine
2 stalks celery , trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch lenghts
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
For the Salad
16 extra-large shrimp, shells and tails removed, deveined
1 pound squid, bodies cut into 1/2-inch rings,tentacles reserved
1½ pound mussels
4 stalks celery , sliced thin (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon garlic, choppped
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons wine vinegar
crushed hot red pepper
Make the court bouillon: Bring the water, wine celery, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, and salt to a boil in a wide casserole or skillet. Adjust the heat to simmering, cover, and cook 10 minutes.
Add the shrimp to the court bouillon and cook them until they are barely opaque in the center, about 4 minutes. Fish and shrimp out with a wire skimmer and spread them out on a baking sheet. Don't worry if they aren't completely drained - you'll use some of the liquid to finish the salad. Add the calamari and poach just until they are firm and tender, about 3 minutes. If in doubt, bite into one ring - it should be springy but tender, not chewy or tough. Don't overcook the calamari or it will become tough. Fish out the calamari and add them to the shrimp.
Bring the court bouillon to a boil. Stir in the mussels, cover the pot, and cook until the shells open and the mussels are firm but not tough, about 4 minutes. Remove with a skimmer and add the other poached seafood. (You can speed things up a bit by ladling about 1/2 cup of the court bouillon into a 3-quart saucepan before you add the shrimp. Bring the liquid in the saucepan to a boil and cook the mussels in that.) When the mussels are cool enough pluck the meat from the shells directly into a large serving bowl.
Make the salad: Transfer the cooled shrimp and calamari to the bowl with the mussels, shaking off peppercorns as you do. Add the celery, parsley, and garlic, then pour in the olive oil and vinegar. Toss until mixed, drizzling in some of the reserved cooking liquid to taste. Season the salad to taste with salt and crushed red pepper. The salad should be very moist and glisten with dressing. If not, add a dash of olive oil and vinegar and a little more of the cooking liquid. Let the salad stand at room temperature about 30 minutes, tossing once or twice. Check the seasoning and toss well just before serving.