This month’s Daring Cooks challenge is all about Peruvian classics – there were actually two challenges this month – ceviche and papas rellenas. Feeling in the need for some lighter fare, I decided to choose the ceviche for this month. This was a fun challenge because I got to do something new. I’ve marinated seafood in acid before in a ceviche-inspired salad, but never ever actually started with raw fish. So here is to another daring first!
I first had ceviche in Washington, D.C. at a trendy little Mexican restaurant with some friends a few years back while I was there for a conference. I was a little skeptical of raw seafood then (this was back before I ate sushi even), but I really loved how the bright sharp citrus flavors worked so well with fish and the spicy chilli peppers, and ever since I have been a big fan. I’ve always loved a really strong punch of flavor, so ceviche is perfectly suited for my palate.
Now living in a land-locked country, it’s not the easiest to get fresh caught seafood (and I’m not exactly sure how well fresh-water fish do for ceviche, so wanted to stick with ocean fish), but I found some sustainably (well if you don’t count the travel to the other side of the world) caught Pacific cod – while it was pre-frozen, I’m not sure I can get seafood of any sort that wasn’t. Not ideal, but it worked really well!
Kathlyn of Bake Like a Ninja was our Daring Cooks’ March 2011 hostess. Kathlyn challenges us to make two classic Peruvian dishes: Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau. And Papas Rellenas adapted from a home recipe by Kathlyn’s Spanish teacher, Mayra.
Ceviche is really interesting in that you start with raw fish and end up with “cooked” fish, and yet no heat is applied. The acid in the citrus juice chemically reacts with the proteins in the fish – the drop in pH from the acid causes the protein to denature – this is what happens when heat is applied during a traditional cooking process as well, and so why I call the fish “cooked” even though I never turned on my oven or stovetop. From a safety standpoint, it is good to know that unlike applying heat, the acid may not be enough to kill harmful pathogens – so it is important to use the freshest fish possible, or at least make sure it was frozen immediately at the source where it was caught.
The amount of time required to marinate the fish depends on the type and the amount of “doneness” you prefer. Flakier white fishes tend to require less time, but some fish can require the better part of a day or more. For this challenge, I let the cod marinate for a good hour, and it was fine by then.
To put my own spin on the dish, I added grapefruit to the traditional lime. Grapefruit is still a very tart and acidic citrus (unlike say, oranges), so I thought it would work well to help “cook” the fish and add a slightly different dimension of flavor. Then, when plating, I added in another one of my favorite seafoods – octopus – I love the color and shape of octopus, and it complemented the cod well.
To balance all of the acidity in the ceviche juice, I turned it into a dressing of sorts by whisking in some olive oil. Then a fair amount of mint leaves were also added – normally I’ve only ever had ceviche with cilantro or parsley – but I love grapefruit and mint together, and thought it would work out well. I think the fresh mint helped tone things down a bit, while still adding flavor.
Overall, the ceviche was a great success – thanks so much to our host for this month, and hope you enjoy this new technique for a fun spin on some favorite seafood flavors!
Adapted from Ceviche de Pescado from “Peruvian Cooking – Basic Recipes” by Annik Franco Barreau (link to pdf with all recipes from this challenge)
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
- 1 lb. firm white fish (cod, etc.), cut into bite-sized pieces
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 red chilli pepper, minced
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- Lime juice from 4 limes
- Grapefruit juice from 1/2 grapefruit
- salt/pepper to taste
- Fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 grapefruit, segmented
- Other cooked seafood if desired
- a little olive oil
1. Add the fish, garlic, chilli pepper, and onion to a medium bowl, and then add the lime and grapefruit juice on top. Make sure to submerge the fish into the citrus juice.
2. Let marinate for at least an hour, or until the fish is “cooked” – i.e., white and opaque, no longer translucent.
3. Add salt/pepper to taste, then some mint leaves, segmented grape fruit slices, and other cooked seafood if desired. Stir, and then strain the juice from the fish.
4. Plate the ceviche. To make a dressing, whisk in a few tablespoons of olive oil quickly to make an emulsion with the citrus juice and then pour on top of the plated ceviche. Enjoy!