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Inspired by conversations on the Food52 Hotline, we're sharing tips and tricks that make navigating all of our kitchens easier and more fun.
Today: Chefs Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill discuss the building blocks of ceviche.
When you think of summer food, you think of raw, crunchy salads, of chilled soups, of popsicles, of ice cubes.
It's time to add ceviche to that list.
Ceviche is the name for the marinated fish salads of Mexico, which are perfect for this season -- instead of turning on the stove, you let acid do the cooking for you.
For a great ceviche, the fish must be of the highest quality and as fresh as possible. (In Mexico, the best fish is found close to the waters’ edge, either at little beach shacks or literally on fishing boats.) When shopping for fresh fish fillets, look for glistening, translucent flesh that smells clean, not fishy. Shop the same day for fish for ceviche and store it in the refrigerator, in its wrapping. At Border Grill, we are 100% committed to serving fish that is sustainably caught and farmed; we make sure to always buy the fish that is in season and recommended by Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program (download the app -- it’s terrific!).
How It Works
In many ceviche recipes, the fish is not completely raw -- a lime juice bath at the beginning technically cooks the outside of the fish (turning it opaque), while the inside remains raw. However, there are different lengths of time that you keep the fish in the lime juice; for example, our local albacore is so fresh, pure and delicious tasting that we just squeeze lime juice on it for a minute or two, before adding dressing and garnishes. On the other hand, when using richer fish like mahi mahi, we like to marinate in the lime juice for an hour or so. We have broadened our view of ceviche to include lightly poached fish or shellfish, too. We love a smoked mussel ceviche with lots of roasted beets or a slightly poached California squid ceviche with chopped mint, cilantro and crunchy jicama. For our Baja ceviche, we sometimes poach the U.S. wild caught shrimp before tossing it with the fish “cooked” in lime juice, jalapenos, tomato, red onion and lots of cilantro.
The great thing about ceviche is you can play around with so many different ingredients. Besides the freshest ingredients available, a great ceviche, for us, has at least 50% vegetables and is accompanied by a crunchy chip of some sort. Chop up peaches or mangoes as contrasts to your lime juice. Add cucumber or jicama for crunch and texture. Play around with the different levels of heat from jalapeno to chipotle to habanero. You also don’t need to use just lime juice; try grapefruit, lemon, orange, or tomato juice. Once you get comfortable with the basic formula, you can start exploring and creating.
While there are no rules in ceviche making, we encourage you to use impeccably-fresh ingredients, lots of interesting vegetables, and a crunchy chip for texture -- and to serve your creations with a spoon for all those delicious juices.
1 pound skinless, boneless sustainable fish, cut into a 1/4-inch dice
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 jalapeño chile, stem and seeds removed, diced
1 aji amarillo chile (jarred), stem and seeds removed, minced
1 1/2 teaspoon aji amarillo paste
1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced or grated
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Pickled red onions (recipe below)
Sliced avocado, for serving
Pickled red onions
1 pound red onions, thinly sliced
1 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 teaspoon roughly chopped cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dried oregano
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 beet, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 8 wedges
Photos by James Ransom