…part one of whatever.
It’s summer here in the northern hemisphere (ed. Note: Motto: “Pretty much everybody lives here”), and that means it’s sometimes just too damn hot to stand over a stove, slaving away at a meal. And sometimes you just can’t stand ordering another pizza (ed. note: Bet me).
Turns out, there’s several ways to ‘cook’ your food without actually applying any heat to it. And one of the easiest and most affordable ways to cook seafood without heat comes to us courtesy of the southern hemisphere (ed. note: Motto: Only twelve percent of the global population, but responsible for 100% of all Crocodile Dundee and Yahoo Serious movies). The dish is ceviche and its home is Peru. Sure, Peru may or may not have created it, but they sure as sh*t made ceviche part of their culture, with ceviche considered the Peruvian national dish, much like bulgogi in South Korea or the Double Value Meal in the US.
In Peruvian ceviche, fish gets cured with an ingredient called ‘leche de tigre’, which translates as ‘tiger’s milk’, but really means ‘just some limes and stuff’. This tells us that somewhere in Peruvian cooking history, there’s probably a real unfunny practical joke involving an assistant chef and a tiger. With super sexy terms like ‘leche de tigre’, ceviche can feel both exotic and inaccessible for your typical home cook, however ceviche is simply seafood that has been cured in citrus.
But before we get to the tasty bit, how does curing in citric acid actually COOK the fish? Truthfully, it doesn’t. Cooking requires heat. However, heat and acid both contribute to the exact same chemical process of ‘denaturation’, which begins to break down the structure of proteins, in this case, Mister Fishy. When an external stressor (like acid or salt or your Weber grill) is applied to protein, the tissues begin to break down and form a more solid structure – essentially firming up the meat, which ultimately makes it more edible and digestible to hungry mammals and alleged lizard persons like us. Denaturation isn’t the sexiest food word (ed note: that would be fromage. Say it with me.”fromage”. MMM), but that’s the science behind how meat gets cooked. And science you get to eat is the BEST SCIENCE.
So, let’s say you want to denature the hell out of some lovely fresh seafood for a summer picnic. Before you start remember: while it’s super easy to make ceviche, make sure you know where you’re getting your seafood. Use a high quality, firm fish or shellfish (scallops and shrimp are wonderful in ceviche) that has been commercially frozen. Maybe don’t get your fish from a gas station this time around, OK?
All you need for ceviche is fish, cut into bite sized chunks or strips and limes. After that, everything is down to taste. Here at the Lamprey Online Test Kitchen we used yellowfin tuna as the base and it turned out so well, I received six wedding proposals.
- 1 sh*tload of limes (ed. Note: Eight. He means eight limes)
- 6 – 8 oz of yellowfin tuna
- 1 roma tomato
- ¼ red onion
- ¼ cucumber
- 1 jalapeno, seeed. Or not. I’m not your supervisor
- 1 handful cilantro
- Black pepper to taste
Juice the limes in a bowl and then just chop the rest of that stuff and pour it right into the lime juice. You want everything in a manageable size, and it’s important the fish has adequate surface area. Cover it and throw it in the fridge to let it set up until the meat is just turning opaque and firm. Less time for flakier fish like red snapper, longer for dense stuff like scallops. You’re definitely thinking in the 20 – 50 min range.
Serve it with avocado chunks and tortilla chips. Then, next time play around…change the protein. Add red pepper flakes. Try some garlic. Go nuts.
Then, enjoy the science. The tasty, tasty science.