Ceviche is one of those dishes that I like to get when I’m on a tropical vacation, but as much as I love it, it’s never something I’d consider making at home. Beyond the fact that I’d be nervous about poisoning my family, I just don’t know about the flavor profiles and frankly, find the entire thing intimidating. That's why I reached out to David Chavez, head chef at Petty Cash in the Arts District, (one of the best place for tacos and margaritas in the city) to give me a few tips on approaching ceviche at home. Here are his pointers for first-timers along with his easy-to-follow recipe.
1. Use an approachable fish, like tuna. Not only is tuna one of the most common fishes, but it's almost always purchased as a loin. That means you don't need to wash it, filet it, or scale it, so that part of dealing with fish is taken out of the equation. For those who are wary, try cooked shrimp and your dish will be more of an aguachile than traditional ceviche. If you are feeling adventurous though, you can use just about any fish for ceviche.
2. Think about your fish the same way a sushi chef does. If you are going to go beyond tuna (I like mackerel, kampachi, or hamachi), relate the fish to sushi. You want to make sure that the eyes, gills, and belly are clean with no slime and your fish should smell like the ocean. When your fish smells like fish, it's gone bad.
3. The oil and fat of your fish will guide the flavor profile. Before you start making your ceviche, you want to check the fattiness and oiliness of your fish. Run your thumb and fore finger over the flesh and then rub them together. If it feels slick and your fingers are shiny, you have an oily fish. With oily fishes, you don't want to add any more fat to your dish so stick with citrus and acids and leave out oily ingredients. Tuna is fatty, so I usually don't add any oils or avocado, however, we often use lean hamachi for our ceviche (see recipe below), so in that instance, I'll add a jalapeño oil as well as avocado.
4. Frozen fish is still fresh fish. It's entirely okay to make a ceviche from frozen fish. Fish like salmon are fabricated on the ship and go through a process called IQF (individually quick freezing) and so a frozen filet can be okay to use for the home cook.
5. Keep it ice-cold. The one tip I cannot stress enough for the home cook is to keep your fish as cold as possible. When you are mixing your ingredients in your bowl, you want to always have another bowl filled with ice underneath and I'd recommend leaving your serving bowl in the fridge beforehand as well.
6. Marinating time depends on your preference. After you've mixed your uniformly diced raw ingredients together, you will marinate them in lime juice. I prefer a more raw fish dish, but for someone who is pregnant, I'd suggest soaking in lime juice for 24 hours.
Petty Cash Hamachi Ceviche, Serves 2
1. Combine diced Hamachi and diced avocado into mixing bowl. Season with salt, avocado dressing, salsa water, and jalapeño oil. Pro tip: If you have left over salsa water, you can also freeze it and put it into cocktails.
2. Plate into appropriate, cold bowl.
3. Garnish with sungold tomato pico, sliced radish, cilantro, and scallions.