Ceviche is a scary thing to describe to people accustomed to frying fish to a crisp. But if you like sushi, or are too scared to try it, ceviche is the perfect middle ground. This is a fun dish to prepare, and is extremely simple to make. All you need is fresh fish, cilantro, citrus, and any other ingredients or flavors you would like to add.
For starters, it’s not raw fish. Cooking, by it’s most basic definition, is the restructuring of proteins into a different shape. You watch that process every time you fry an egg, and it changes from gooey and clear to firm and white. In this Latin American dish, the fish is cooked, but using citric acid instead of heat. In this process, over the course of 30 min to hours, you will watch the fish change from pale and pink to white and firm.
If you want to prepare a great dish, you can’t skip fresh ingredients. The fish should be recently caught and the meat on the fillet should be firm and pink. If you see graying in the meat, separation of the muscle fibers when you handle the fish, or notice a distinct smell, it’s likely not fresh enough. Fish should never give off a smell like a bait shop or the seafood section of a grocery store.
In these photos, I use fresh, speckled trout. These fillets were prepared on the same day they were caught, and were submerged in ice from the moment of capture. I keep all my fish fillets iced, wrapped in plastic wrap, and inside plastic bags until I am ready to cook them. Speckled trout are commonly not placed on ice quickly enough, and people complain of soft fillets. This is only true if you handled the fish improperly, or only part of the fish has been in contact with the ice.
When preparing the fish, be sure there are no bones, scales, or slime left on the fish. I gently wash the fillets and pat them dry before dicing them into small, quarter inch cubes.
Once filleted, you can throw these into a clean bowl along with the ingredients you prefer. I start with the citrus, and in this example I used fresh a squeezed lime, lemon, and orange. Next, I add the herbs. Ceviche typically has chopped cilantro. You an also add basil, mint, or anything you think may work. You don’t need to mince the herbs. Chop them in chunks and toss them in. I have found that firm, diced roma tomatoes go nicely with the fish, as well as red onion. For an added kick, I threw in red pepper flakes and Louisiana hot sauce.
Finally, I added chunks of orange pulp, zest of the orange and lemon, and made sure that the fish seemed well coated in the acid. You don’t have to turn this into soup, you just want to be sure that everything has a nice coating. IMPORTANT: Be sure to add sea salt throughout your addition of any citrus to counteract the bitterness.
Mix all of this well, and now it’s a waiting game. It’s totally up to you how long you want this to sit. If you like a more raw and fresh quality, maybe 30 minutes is best. If you like a little more firm texture 2 hours to overnight can also work. Personally, I give it 30 minutes when it’s cut at this size.
In the end, you can serve this in tacos, with tortilla chips, or all by itself. In this preparation, it went really well over diced avocado.
Gulf Seafood Ceviche
1 medium fresh fish fillet, diced into chunks or slices
1/4 cup Diced red onion
1 diced Roma Tomato
1/2 cup of herbs, including cilantro (equal volume to the fish)
Sea salt for taste
Citrus, including lime, lemon, orange (use fresh squeezed only)
Zest and pulp of the citrus used
For spice, add hot sauce, jalapeno, or red pepper to taste
Dice fresh fish into small chunks or slices. Add citrus enough to coat well. Add herbs, chopped coarsely. Mix in sea salt, onion, tomato, zest, and spices. Let sit to desired texture (30 min to hours) depending on your preference. Taste before serving. Once cooked, serve over fresh diced avocado.