Saturday, May 13, 2006

Some Simple Ceviche Basics

To make ceviche from any obviously very fresh, firm, white-fleshed fish, preferably seabass, snapper, or grouper, this method should guarantee to get it right. A couple years ago, flounder would have been on that list, but over time I've concluded that the other three are better ceviche candidates. If ever again, I'm fortunate enough to get hold of fresh tautog, I'd also love to give that a try.

Ceviche is a favorite here and a specialty. In addition to two slick cookbooks in the library that are devoted exclusively to ceviche, the Unique Culinary Adventures cumulative database includes over 41 ceviche recipes gathered from out, around, and about. This one has rested there, untested, for years. In Linda Gassenheimer's Keys Cuisine, Atlantic Monthly Press, New York, 1991, was a recipe entitled "Black Grouper Ceviche." Extremely fresh black grouper is never available at retail here in Maryland---rarely is any species of grouper that's fresh enough for Unique Culinary Adventures standards---and for that reason, I'd never made it.

Alas, one day last week, Han Au Reun had some grouper, not black grouper, but grouper that was fresher than any I've ever encountered hereabouts. Upon asking Han Au Reun's fish man to filet it with the skin off, he looked at me like I was crazy. Remember, the territory was more Baltimore/Asian than Baltimore/Florida Keys. This recipe is about the latter.

To arrive at this adaptation of Ms. Gassenheimer's recipe, two minor changes were made: First the title---and it's only fair to note that in listing her ingredients, Ms. Gassenheimer specified not specifically black grouper but "firm white fleshed fish." Had the title been as general, we'd have done this a long time ago. Second, Ms. Gassenheimer called for marinating in a mixture of 1 cup of lemon juice and 1/3 cup of lime juice. Most likely this was because key limes were not always easy to come by when the book was written. Had they been, I feel certain she would have called for them. Today, key limes are much more readily available. You have my guarantee, and I'll bet you could have Ms. Gassenheimer's guarantee, that they work as well---I'm going to say better than anything else.


2 lbs. firm, fresh white-fleshed saltwater fish filet (grouper, snapper, seabass)
1 1/3 cups key lime juice
2 tablespoons crushed garlic
1/3 large yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander (seed)
1/4 cup raw sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and marinate in the key lime juice for 1 hour. Stir together in a bowl the rest of the ingredients. Add the fish and citrus juices then taste for seasoning, adding more sugar, salt, or pepper as needed. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Serves 8