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Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Mexican Style Ceviche


There is nothing that tastes fresher or cleaner than ceviche and it's my go to dish when I have a spent a weekend of eating debauchery. There is no oil or added fat of any kind, it's raw, it's cold, it's fresh and it has crunch.You can eat a huge bowl of it and it will amount to almost nothing at the end of the day so you can sit right back down and eat another bowl, guilt free. Clearly, because this dish is not cooked, you want to buy yourself some really fresh fish from a reliable fishmonger like Hooked or my Beaches staple, The Beach Fish House. Look, I don't know where you live but if you don't know where there is a great fish shop in your hood, take the time to find one. You can thank me later.




Ceviche is a popular dish across Mexico, Central and South America and I have yet to meet one that I didn't love. Basically, it's fish or some sort of seafood, marinated in citrus and served cold and from that point, the variations are endless. Granted, I am most familiar with Mexican style ceviche but having my Peruvian friends, the MVPs, I am totally down with their style as well. Of course, they tell me that ceviche originated in their homeland but it is thought that it was actually brought to Peru via the Moorish women from Granada who hitched a ride with the Spanish conquistadors but they aren't having any of that.  In Peru, they don't marinate the fish nearly as long as in other places and they often use lemon, key limes or bitter orange as the base of the marinade. It's usually much hotter than the Mexican version, often featuring aji amarillo, the super hot yellow pepper used all throughout Peruvian cuisine.

Mexican ceviche contains some sort of seafood, lime, salt, onion, tomato and cilantro and then regional differences start to crop up, including the alarming practice of adding ketchup in a version that they call "coctel". I have enjoyed this dish made with all manner of fish, shrimp, conch, scallops and squid while in Mexico but my favourite is a combination of sea bass, shrimp and scallops. Here, at home, I often use a nice, white, inoffensive fish like Tilapia because it's easy to find and easy to work with.

I understand that in Ecuador they use ketchup but add toasted corn, which kind of redeems the whole ketchup thing and Chilean ceviche will often feature grapefruit juice with cilantro. The absolute common denominator is that all ceviches require that citrus marinade because that citrus acid is what causes the raw seafood to "cook" without having to use any heat. Once you have yourself fresh, raw fish or seafood and a citrus juice of some sort, you can actually get as creative as you like. I like to add julienned radish for a peppery crunch and have had success with scallion, cubed avocado and actual chunks of citrus as well. For today, I am just going to share a really simple, basic Mexican ceviche so you can get the hang of it. I use a bit less lime than other recipes you might find because I don't find it actually needs all that much juice and I really don't want lime to be THE prevailing flavour. I also mixed halibut and shrimp in the proportions that we like but feel free to change that up as long as you are using about 400 to 500 grams of seafood for this recipe. Remember, it's also not baking so it's not set in stone. If your limes feel like they aren't all that juicy, by all mean, throw in more lime juice. If you LOVE cilantro, add more and if you are one of those weirdos who think cilantro tastes like soap, leave it out but do sub in some italian parsley so that it retains that fresh, green flavour and it's pretty looks. It's really up to you how much chili pepper you add but I like it to be only moderately hot. I want to taste the fish and if it is too spicy, the taste of the pepper overwhelms all of the other fresh flavours so I go light on the jalapeno.

You can eat ceviche with tortilla chips, saltine crackers, as a taco filling, on a tostada smeared with guacamole or just out of a bowl with spoon.


Mexican Style Ceviche

    serves 4-6


ingredients

370g halibut steak (about 300 g of flesh), diced
150g shrimp, shelled, deveined
juice of 4 limes
1/2 red onion, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded and minced
2 med tomatoes, small dice
handful cilantro
kosher salt


instructions

If you get a halibut steak you are going to have to do some work. Cut away the skin, make sure you don't leave any bones and cut around the cartilage and bone in the filet. When you do all that you should be left with about 300g of actual fish that you will dice. We like our fish in pretty small pieces.

Put the fish in a glass or ceramic bowl (something non reactive-no plastic please). Chop the shrimp and add that to the fish and then juice the limes over the fish. I cut them in half and insert a fork into a half while I squeeze it over the bowl. Toss the fish and shrimp to coat with lime juice. Now add the onion, jalapeno, tomato and cilantro and toss well. Add a pinch of kosher salt, toss, cover and put it in the fridge for at least an hour and up to about 3 hours. Because we cut the shrimp and the fish into a small dice, an hour is sufficient but if you cut the fish a bit bigger it might take longer. Because I use a bit less lime juice, I do give it a stir two or three times while it's marinating just to make sure it "cooks" evenly.
You can tell it's ready when the shrimp and the fish become opaque and appear cooked. Taste and adjust the salt if need be.
Serve with tortilla chips