Matteo’s Salsa Loco is enjoying new life at 305 Coastal Highway in Fenwick Island – that’s the east side of Route 1 (Coastal Highway) at the corner of West Virginia Avenue in Lighthouse Square. Chef/Owner Matt Griffin is delighted with the larger accommodations.
“We can now seat over 100 people, with enough space for large parties,” he said, “compared to seating about 80 people at our previous location in Bethany Beach.”
I last interviewed Matt for “Marie’s Kitchen” in June 2007. He knows that I love Mexican food, so he expects me to show up hungry. I didn’t disappoint him. It’s a good thing that I live outside the box when it comes to breakfast-food choices, because I arrived at Matteo’s at 10:30 a.m. Silky white scallops for Matteo’s Scallops Veracruz were ready to sizzle and the cheese on Cerveza Shrimp Nachos was melting in the oven.
Matt grows his own herbs and peppers – cayenne, jalapeños, Thai chiles and habaneras – and uses them in his cuisine, as well as in his bottled sauces and salsas.
“Our most popular salsa is the Medium Salsa de Casa that we serve in the restaurant,” he said. (I prefer his Hot Salsa de Casa, which is terrific on enchiladas.) You can purchase this salsa, as well as 14 other products at the restaurant; or call Matteo’s at (302) 541-4911 to place an order for products or full-menu take out. You can also Friend them on Facebook at Matteossalsaloco.
Matt’s Hot Red-Headed Step Sauce (milder jalapeño/cayenne-based sauce) was a big winner at the Fiery Foods Salsa contest in Ft. Worth, Texas. He also won an award at a blind salsa-tasting contest in Albuquerque, N.M.
One of the salsas you might want to steer clear of is: WHY? I love spicy-hot foods, but Matt cautioned me against this salsa.
“It’s stupid hot,” he said.
It’s named WHY, because he keeps asking himself, “Why did you make something this hot? It’s too hot to eat.”
Want to bet that now that I’ve put out the challenge, folks will come to the table with something to prove? Don’t say I didn’t warn you!
Matteo’s Salsa Loco, where menu items are a tasty fusion of seafood and American and Mexican cuisines with a California flare, is open Thursday through Tuesday from noon to midnight on weekdays and noon until 1 a.m. on weekends. The restaurant is closed on Wednesdays.
Matt looks forward to a busy winter season – live entertainment on Fridays and Saturdays; $5-off Fajita Fridays and Ladies’ Night, 8 p.m. until closing; $12 Saturday rockfish taco platter; NFL Ticket Sunday; Monday Night Football specials; and the ever popular $1 Taco Night – now celebrated on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
You can also check out daily lunch specials and early-bird specials from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Monthly tequila-tasting dinners are back by request – the first scheduled for Friday night, Dec. 3.
Scallops Veracruz is one of Matteo’s signature dishes.
“This is one of our most popular dishes,” Matt said. “I serve it with a sautéed zucchini or squash and carrots medley and three-pepper rice – my own ground blend of roasted guajillo, ancho and cayenne peppers.”
It’s difficult to take notes when you’re sticking a toothpick into a large, juicy scallop and scooping up the delicious sauce with one hand, and munching a Cerveza Shrimp Nacho with the other. Oh, how I love a good challenge!
? Seasoned flour (sea salt and white pepper)
? 6 ounces fresh local 10/20 dry sea scallops (5-7 pieces)
? 1 teaspoon (or a bit more) blended oils – 50% olive oil and 50% vegetable oil
? 1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
? 1/2 teaspoon chopped garlic
? 1/4 cup white wine and lemon juice mixture
? 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
? 1/8 cup roasted corn kernels (see how-to below)
? 1/8 cup garlic butter
? 1/4 cup white wine and lemon juice
Method for Scallops Veracruz:
Lightly dust scallops in the seasoned flour. Bring blended oil to almost the smoking point and brown sea scallops in the oil until they are beautifully golden brown. Then add the chopped garlic and sauté a bit longer. Add the white wine/lemon juice mixture and reduce the sauce a bit. Add the chopped tomatoes and roasted corn kernels. Add the cilantro and garlic butter and toss together. When the butter has melted, the scallops are ready. Place the scallops in a serving dish and top with the sauce. Yield: 1 serving or two as an appetizer.
To roast corn: Preheat oven (or toaster oven) to 400 degrees F. If using fresh corn, remove kernels from the cob. If using frozen, just put kernels on a small oven tray and roast until golden brown.
Another popular choice at Matteo’s is Cerveza Shrimp Nachos – fresh-baked tortilla chips topped with refried beans, shrimp, jalapeños, Mexican beer and cheese.
Cerveza Shrimp Nachos
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
? 4 ounces fresh baked tortilla chips
? 4 ounces refried beans
? 4 ounces steamed, peeled and deveined bay shrimp
? 2 jalapeño chiles, roasted and chopped
? 1/3 cup Negra Modelo (Mexican beer)
? 1/2 cup each shredded Cheddar and Jack cheese combined
? 2 tablespoons sliced black olives
? 2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes
? 2 tablespoons chopped green onion
? 1/4 cup Matteo’s Salsa de Casa
? 1/4 cup sour cream
? 1/4 cup guacamole
Method for Cerveza Shrimp Nachos:
Place chips in a 13-by-9-by-2-inch baking pan. Layer the chips with refried beans, shrimp, chopped jalapeños, beer and cheese. Bake at 350 degrees for 5 minutes. Shake the pan, return to the oven and bake until the cheese has melted and your mouth is watering! Remove from the oven, slide the chips onto a platter and top with olives, tomatoes, green onions and salsa. Serve immediately with sour cream and guacamole.
Matt is an avid fisherman and loves creating new and exciting sauces to top fresh fish. For his Huachinango Mole Verde, he tops snapper fillet with a sauce of roasted tomatillos, Poblano peppers and spices.
Most good cookbooks, like “Joy of Cooking,” give great instructions on how to roast peppers (in my copy, instructions on pages 402-403); several options are available. If you’re an online cook, www.allrecipes.com has simple instructions on the procedure. If you have difficulty, shoot me an e-mail and I’ll do my best to help.
Matt uses snapper fillets for this dish, but he said that you can also use flounder (flaky fish work best); he’s also used bass with great success.
In the sauce recipe, Matt lists fresh epazote as an ingredient. If you find fresh epazote around here, I’d love to know about it. Dried epazote is available, but it must be rehydrated in this sauce. To rehydrate, simmer in a bit of hot water before adding to the rest of the ingredients. For those who’ve never heard of this herb, it’s native to Mexico and the tropical regions of Central and South America; it’s often added to black-bean dishes because of its gas-preventing properties and because the potent aroma cuts the heaviness of the beans.
Huachinango Mole Verde
Make Mole Verde first.
? 6 Poblano chiles (mild heat and rich and smoky flavor)
? 7 tomatillos
? 1/2 teaspoon cumin
? 1 teaspoon coriander
? 1/2 teaspoon salt
? 2 Tablespoons fresh epazote or 1 tablespoon dried and rehydrated
? 1 cup chicken stock
? 1/2 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
? 2 cups chopped Romaine leaves
? 1 corn tortilla dried and chopped
? 2 tablespoons peanut oil
Method for Mole Verde:
Roast the tomatillos and Poblanos with the cumin, coriander, salt and rehydrated epazote. In a blender container, blend the roasted tomatillos, peppers, chicken stock, cilantro, Romaine leaves and corn tortilla. In a cast iron skillet, heat oil until very hot and bring the sauce to a simmer; simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat; top fish with the sauce.
? 8 ounces red snapper (or any color) fillet boned and skinned
? Seasoned flour (sea salt and white pepper)
? Blended oil (1/2 olive oil; 1/2 vegetable oil)
? Fresh chopped cilantro
? Fresh lime juice
Method for Snapper:
Lightly dust the snapper in seasoned flour and sauté in blended oil until golden brown and just done on both sides. Lace with Mole Verde and garnish with fresh chopped cilantro and lime juice.
I knew that it was 5 o’clock somewhere, but in Fenwick Island, it was only 11 a.m. So, when Matt offered me a sample of his wildly popular Tijuana Lemonade made with Don Julio Reposado Tequila, I graciously declined. My mama would be proud.
? One 12-ounce glass filled with ice
? 1-1/2 ounces Don Julio Reposado (tequila)
? 1-1/2 ounces simple syrup (see recipe below)
? Club soda
? Juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
? Orange zest
? Fat lemon wedges
Method for Tijuana Lemonade:
If desired, coat the rim of a 12-ounce glass with sugar and orange zest by pouring a layer of sugar and orange zest onto a small plate; moisten each glass rim with orange or lemon juice and dip in the sugar/orange zest mixture. Fill the glass with ice. Pour tequila, simple syrup, club soda and fresh lemon juice over ice. Shake. Garnish with a fat lemon wedge.
? 1 cup granulated sugar
? 1 cup water
Method for Simple Syrup:
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Cool before using. Refrigerate the rest of the simple syrup; keeps a long time. (Delicious when making margaritas!)
(Editor’s note: If you have recipes to share, or recipes you want, contact Marie Cook, Coastal Point, P.O. Box 1324, Ocean View, DE 19970; or by e-mail at ChefMarieCook@gmail.com. Please include your phone number. Recipes in this column are not tested by the Coastal Point.)