Sunday, March 13, 2011

March Daring Cooks Challenge: Red Snapper Ceviche

March's Daring Cook's Challenge focuses on Peruvian foods -- ceviche and papas rellenos with a pisco sour thrown in for good measure. Since the papas rellenos are fried and I have established that I do not want to eat food that I have fried, I chose to make ceviche.

Dh often makes ceviche when we are down at the beach where there is an abundance of fresh seafood. When I started planning my meal a couple of weeks ago, it occurred to me that my upcoming trip to Fort Myers for Mom's Spring Break would be the perfect time to make ceviche. Last year, we had a great time making a truly fabulous bouillebaisse. Ceviche seemed like an appropriate encore.

Fortuitously, given that I had not told her my plan, JB suggested that we stop in Sarasota on our way home from the Tampa airport. She and her husband had discovered an interesting restaurant there that she thought I would like -- the Selva Grill, a Nuevo Latino spot in downtown. We sat at the bar and ordered pisco sours with a sampler platter of their ceviche. I have to say, my gut instinct not to invest in a bottle of pisco liqueur was spot on. I finished mine but JB deferred since she was our designated driver. I am not a wimp, but that is some strong stuff. The cocktail was much better with their
triologia of ceviche --fresh white fish with aji amarillo, tuna in ginger sauce and shrimp with achiote and avocado -- really elegant Asian-influenced ceviche. The smells from the dining room as we were leaving were inviting. I'd love to go back, skip the pisco sour, and have dinner sometime.

The next morning we set off to a flea market with a collection of Hispanic produce vendors. I had in mind a couple of recipes I'd seen in Mark Miller's Tacos and needed avocados, tomatillos, and habaneros among other things. After a mostly successful hunt, we headed out to Pine Island for seafood. Lunch was the first item on our agenda. There was no discussion about where we were going... my favorite from last year's Spring Break, the Olde Fish House Marina. At their seafood market, we bought yellow eye snapper to use in one of the ceviches. At the market next door, we bought red snapper to use in the other.

From Mark Miller's Tacos, we used his recipes for the Red Snapper Ceviche and accompanying Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce, as well as the Ceviche with Coconut and Ginger. We made the dishes pretty much as written, except where we were missing ingredients.

Red Snapper Ceviche


For the Tomatillo- Avocado Sauce:
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 small white onion, chopped
  • Leaves from 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno chilies, stemmed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 ¼ cups ice
  • 1 large avocado, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
For the ceviche:
  • 2 pounds boneless, skinless red snapper filets, cut into 1/4-inch dice
  • 1 tablespoon habanero hot sauce
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably Spanish
  • 1 tablespoon fine sea salt
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ½ red onion, sliced very thin
  • 1 habanero chile, seeded and minced
  • 8 5 1/2 inch corn tortillas
  • vegetable oil for frying
  • garnish: Tomatillo-Avocado Sauce, Corn Nuts
  1. Start the tomatillo-avocado sauce first. In a large saucepan, add the tomatillos, onion, cilantro, garlic, chilies, lime juice, salt and water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and boil just until the tomatillos and chilies are blanched, about 5 minutes.
  2. Pour off 3/4 of the cooking liquid (reserving about half of that) and add the rest of the mixture with the ice and avocado to a blender.
  3. Blend until smooth but not completely pureed. Add back more liquid if needed to get a creamy but not watery consistency. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  4. In a large bowl, combine all the ceviche ingredients except for the tortillas and garnish.
  5. Let the fish marinate for at least 2 hours in the refrigerator.
  6. Check for salt.

The filling can sit for an additional 1-2 hours in the refrigerator before it gets mushy.

To serve the ceviche, heat the oil over medium-high heat in a medium skillet. Fry each tortilla for about 10 seconds on one side, using tongs flip over and fry for 10 seconds on the other side. Use the tongs to bend the tortilla into a taco shape. Fry for 5-10 seconds on each side until lightly browned.

Fill the shell with ceviche, sauce and corn nuts.

Yield: 8 tacos

Prep time: 1 1/2 hours (including time to dice the fish)

The ceviche was delightful and well-received by all, including the resident 15-year old. I completed a number of kitchen tasks that I had done before -- dicing fish, rehydrating dried chiles, frying tortillas. And that is what the Daring Cook's Challenge is all about!

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