My brother Ben has written his first of what will hopefully be many articles in publications. This one is on ceviche. I’ve transposed the article with images for easier reading. Here is the PDF, if you want it.
I have a small obsession with turning everything I can get my hands on into ceviche. To me, something great can happen with the simple cooking process of marinating in citrus juice. I have tried everything from creamy-style cobia with horseradish to scallops with grapefruit and even mushrooms with orange and lemon juice. There’s no stopping once you start. Just a little know-how, and you’re well on your way.
I guess my ceviche fetish was natural. Having grown up on the Gulf of Mexico, my family and I ate fish for every meal, sometimes even for snacks. In 2003, I was on vacation in Mexico, and my brother-in-law and I wandered off the beaten path. We stumbled across a small grass hut about 20 feet or so off the beach. There was a gentleman taking snapper he had just caught not even an hour before and tossing it with fresh squeeze of lime, cilantro, spicy chili and fresh tomatoes. Needless to say, from that experience, I couldn’t look back.
Now, ceviche is a cooking process, but you’re simply marinating in citrus juice. Think of it as a process similar to pickling. The acid does not actually cook the ingredient, so when using fish, make sure it’s the freshest available. It’s probably best if it’s still swimming. I find that most fish, like snapper, tilapia, corvine (sea bass) and salmon are best for marinating right before serving. Others, like cobia and swordfish, need a little more time to marinate. The origins of the word likely come from the word “escabeche,” which is Spanish for marinade. Ceviche, the process itself, is likely to have originated in Peru. The typical garnish in Peru for a ceviche will be a cancha (tossed kernels of maize) or slices of sweet potato. In Ecuador, you’ll see it served with popcorn, which is my favorite garnish. In Mexico, ceviche is usually served with tomatoes. In addition to being found in South and Central America, ceviche can be ordered in the Philippines. Filipinos call the dish “kinilaw,” and it’s very similar to Latin American styles.
Currently at Eclipse di Luna, I offer a salmon ceviche with lime, mint, cucumber, avocado, crispy yucca and sea salt. I chose salmon because it’s a healthy, versatile fish, and I can eat it any way it’s prepared. My garnishes and condiments are nowhere near traditional, but they compliment the salmon very well. When I’m composing a dish, I usually like to play with familiar flavors I know work well together. After all, cooking is supposed to be fun. I use lime juice as the citrus that cooks the salmon. The cucumber adds a cool freshness. The avocado adds richness, and the yucca serves as a crispy garnish.
Ben McPherson is the executive chef at Eclipse di Luna. 764 Miami Circle. 404-846-0449. www.eclipsediluna.com.
SALMON CEVICHE (Serves 4)
1 pound salmon, fresh (preferably wild caught Alaskan salmon)
6 mint leaves
1 yucca root
Sea Salt (preferably Maldon)
Oil for frying (preheated to 350 degrees F)
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the yucca as you would a carrot. Using a mandolin or a slicer, slice the yucca lengthwise into 1/8-inch strips. Rinse sliced yucca in cold water, and pat dry with a towel. Using a couple of strips at a time, fry the yucca in the preheated oil until crispy (about 1 minute)
Place yucca on a towel to drain, sprinkle with sea salt and set aside.
Slice cucumber 1/8-inch thick using a knife or mandolin. Place in a container until ready to use. Dice salmon into 1/2-inch thick squares, and keep refrigerated until ready to use. Squeeze lime into a blender with the mint. Puree until smooth.
When ready, toss the salmon with the lime mint puree and a pinch of sea salt. Place 6 slices of cucumber on a chilled plate in a circle overlapping each other. Place a fourth of the salmon mixture on top. Cut avocado in half, core and remove the pulp from the skin with a spoon. Slice avocado lengthwise. Place this atop the salmon mixture. Garnish with the yucca and a little more sea salt.