Tag Archives: Ceviche

Test Kitchen #2

3 Nov Lobster Ceviche Veracruz

You ever have one of those days where everything you were doing just did not turn out right? Well, Test Kitchen #2, in many ways, turned into one of those days. It all started with the Epic 2011 Halloween Nor’easter.  For those of you who do not have the pleasure of living in New England in the winter, a Nor’easter is a brutal type of winter snowstorm.  This storm knocked out power to more than 160,000 in Maine, including my home. Then on Monday morning, on my way to work, a miracle occurred; Power had also been knocked out to the Rochester Electronics facilities in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Test Kitchen Sunday suddenly became Test Kitchen Monday!

My agenda for Test Kitchen #2 was as follows:

  1. Test out a Oaxacan inspired ceviche based on an original recipe from Rick Bayless, but adding my own twist by substituting pilloncillo for chocolate Abuelita (a sweetened Mexican chocolate).
  2. Test out a Yucatan inspired ceviche with Coconut, Mint, and Mango.
  3. Recreate the Veracruz version of ceviche.
  4. Plate all three together in a “tour” of ceviche. That is have about 4 ounces of ceviche from three different regions in Mexico.
  5. Of course, take pictures and document my day.

So early Monday morning (around 11:00AM) I headed off to obtain my supplies. I went out to Golden Harvest once again.  I then headed to Taylor Lobster to get my fresh lobsters. This time, I wanted to give you a little bit more about my friendly nieghborhood fish monger, so I took some photos inside the store. Those pictures will be posted on the Facebook page for this food blog www.facebook.com/delgrossofoodblog.  So having my fresh produce, and my fresh lobsters, I headed home to create!

Taylor Lobster

Taylor Lobster in Kittery, Maine

I prepared my lobsters once again by placing them in the freezer for about 20 minutes to put them to “sleep” while I boiled my pot of salted water. I added the aromatics to the pot, and covered it. Once the pot came to a boil, I placed three lobsters in the pot, turned off the heat, and set the timer for 8 minutes.  Once the 8 minutes were up, I took out each lobster and placed in an ice bath for 2 minutes or so to: 1. To immediately stop the cooking and 2. To cool the lobsters faster so I could remove the meat. Once the lobsters were cool, I took the claws and the tails and removed the meat. The three lobsters yielded about 12 ounces of lobster meat (about 4 ounces each).  I chopped up the lobster meat and placed it in a covered glass container in the refrigerator while I prepared the marinades.

Lobster

Mmmmm Lobster!

To cut to the chase, the Oaxacan ceviche was a total disaster.  The combination of the grapefruit juice, chocolate, and chile pasilla just did not work at all. The bittersweet flavor of the chocolate, together with the tart acidic grapefruit juice did not balance well with the chile pasilla. I did not have much lobster to test out the original recipe so I moved on to the Yucatan ceviche. This was not nearly such a disaster, the flavors balanced well, but it still needed something, like cilantro. The problem with that was I was already featuring cilantro in another ceviche and did not want to repeat ingredients.

After one complete failure, and the other miss with the Yucatan ceviche, my trio was suddenly becoming a solo act. I instantly thought of an episode of “Iron Chef” that I once watched. One of the challengers put up a trio of some dish for judging (I do not remember what the “secret ingredient” was).  It was quite ambitious and it looked beautiful. Unfortunately, one of the trio fell short, so the judges blasted the entire dish. One of the judges mentioned that when you present a trio, they compete against each other rather than compete against the other chef’s single plate. When presenting a trio, all three better be spot on or the whole dish risks judgment on each individual serving. Having that thought clearly in my mind, I switched gears and focused on my original dish.

So the safe bet was to make the Lobster Ceviche Veracruz in a chilled avocado soup (Ceviche de Langosta Veracruzano en sopa fria de aquacate). So I took another 4 ounces of the lobster meat and marinated it for 30 minutes in the juice of 2 limes, 1 lemon, and 1 orange.  While this was marinating, I minced my red onion, tomato, chile serrano, cilantro. After 30 minutes, I drained the citrus well, then I mixed in the rest of the ingredients. 

The Citrus

Citrus is Cool!

For the avocado soup, I chopped up ½ of a yellow onion and sautéed the onion in 1 tablespoon of corn oil and 1 tablespoon of butter until the onion became translucent and began to darken slightly on the edges. I then added about ¼ cup of cilantro. I let the cilantro cook until it just began to wilt, then I placed the entire contents of the pan into a blender with 6 cups of warm chicken stock (make sure the fat has been completely been separated from the stock!).  At this point, cut up and scoop out the flesh from 3 Haas avocados and put in the blender.  Then carefully pulse the blender to puree setting and puree until smooth.  To ensure that your avocado soup does not oxidize and turn from its delicious green to a ugly brown color, squeeze in the juice from 1 lime. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely.

Onions

Sweating Onions

 

Adding the Cilantro

Adding the cilantro to the onions

Once the soup was chilled, I took a shallow bowl, took out my food mold, and placed it in the center of the bowl. I scooped the ceviche into the food mold and filled it to the top. I then poured the avocado soup around the ceviche with the mold still in place. Once I had about ½ inch or so of soup in the bowl, I carefully removed the mold, then I placed a cilantro leaf and a tortilla chip in the ceviche and the dish was ready to serve! Although I failed to accomplish my objectives, I did end up with a result. A beautiful, professional dish to serve at my MasterChef audition on Saturday. There are a few adjustments that I need to make, adding a pinch more salt, using the juice of only 1 lime, and adding a bit more chile to give it some kick to contrast the cool, refreshing avocado soup, but overall it was a delicious dish!

Lobster Ceviche Veracruz

Ceviche de Langosta Veracruzano en Sopa Fria de Aguacate

Ceviche de Langosta Veracruzano

  • 8 to 10 ounces of lobster meat (partially cooked. 2 one and a quarter pound lobsters will yield approx. 8 ounces)
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice(Valencia or Navel)
  • ¼ red onion, diced
  • 1 Chile Serrano, seeded and membranes removed, diced
  • ½ cup of fresh cilantro, loosely packed, chopped fine
  • Pinch of salt to taste (al gusto)
  1. Bring 1 large stockpot filled with water, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 bay leaves, and 4 sprigs of thyme to a boil.
  2. Once the water boils, add up to two lobsters at a time, turn off heat and cover.  Blanche lobsters for about 6-8 minutes.
  3. After 6-8 minutes, remove the lobsters and quickly shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking. After a few minutes in the ice-cold water, remove them from the ice bath.
  4. Go about removing the meat from the lobster.
  5. Once you have removed the meat from the tails and the claws, you can press out the leg meat.  Chop the lobster meat into bit size pieces.
  6. Combine the citrus in a non-reactive bowl (preferably glass or stainless) with the lobster and place covered in a refrigerator for about 30 – 45 minutes.
  7. While the lobster “cooks” in the citrus, prepare and combine all the other ingredients in bowl.
  8. Once the lobster has soaked for no more than 45 minutes, take it from the refrigerator and mix with the other ingredients.
  9. Plate immediately and serve with a slice of avocado, some saltine crackers, tortilla chips, or tostadas.

Chilled Avocado Soup

  • ½ of a yellow onion, diced
  • ¼ cup fresh cilantro, stems removed
  • 1 tablespoon of corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
  • 3  Haas Avocados
  • 6 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 lime
  • Salt (al Gusto)
  1. Chop the onion and place in a hot sauté pan with the corn oil and the melted butter. Cook until the onion becomes translucent and just begins to brown on the edges.
  2. Add the cilantro and cook until the cilantro wilts.
  3. Put the onions and cilantro into a blender with 6 cups of chicken stock.
  4. Scoop out the flesh of 3 avocados and place into the blender.
  5. Carefully puree to a smooth consistency and place in a covered glass container or bowl in the refrigerator. Once it is chilled, it is ready to serve.
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Test Kitchen #1

25 Oct

This weekend was the start of some serious Test Kitchen activity. I have been tossing a bunch of ideas in my head: a traditional Mexican ceviche, one with an Italian twist, and maybe one inspired by the Yucatan. So armed with my exprimador (citrus press), my chef’s knife, and some mixing bowls, I was off to my kitchen.

Well, not really my kitchen, first I needed to go and get my ingredients.  So I drove out to my favorite fish monger, Taylor’s Lobster, in Kittery, Maine. One of the great advantages of living in New England is the availability and affordability of lobster.

The Lobstah

Larry, Curly, and Moe

I picked out four 1 ¼ pound lobsters for $33.00 and then headed off to the Golden Harvest, also in Kittery, Maine, where they have a wonderful selection of produce. Now armed with my fresh ingredients, I drove back to my kitchen with anticipation.

So the basis of any ceviche in Mexico is of course, the citrus. The seafood will actually “cook” in the citrus. Although in my case, I will almost fully cook the lobster and then just finish it off in the citrus. A good rule of thumb is to use equal parts of lime juice and lemon juice, but I also want to add some sweetness to one of the dishes. The rest is plain vanilla; the cilantro, jalapeño, tomatoes, and maybe a bit of garlic. So I setup my kitchen into a sort of mise en place.

The Produce

All the ingredients

I squeezed all my limes, lemons, and oranges into separate bowls. I chopped my red onion, the Habanero chiles, jalapeño chiles, ginger, and garlic into their own bowls.  I prepared an ice bath to cool the lobsters and I placed the lobsters in the freezer for about 15 minutes to put the lobsters to sleep. Doing this makes it easier to handle them and maybe a bit more humane as well.

I filled my steamer pot full of water and set it on the stove, added 3 tablespoons of salt, two bay leaves, and clove of garlic.  Once the pot was at a full boil, I placed two of the four lobsters into the pot, covered them and turned off the heat. I let them cook for about 8 minutes, then pulled them out and placed them in the ice bath to both stop the cooking immediately and to cool them quickly so I can remove the meat. While I was cracking my first batch of lobsters, I repeated the same process with the two remaining lobsters. Once those last bugs were done; I removed their meat as well.

The cooked lobstah

Ready to crack!

I just used the tail and claw meat; there is really nothing else of value in the lobster beyond this. In all I yielded about 1 pound of lobster meat from the four lobsters. Then I chopped up the meat into small pieces. Since I wanted three portions, I divided up the 1 pound of meat into 3 separate 5 and 1/3 ounce portions and placed each portion into their own bowl.

The first ceviche, the traditional Mexican ceviche, I placed 1/3 cup of lime juice, 1/3 cup of lemon juice, 1/3 cup of orange juice, and about 1/2 of a red onion minced very fine and some salt (just a pinch). I let that marinate in the refrigerator for about 1 hour. After an hour, I took it out the fridge, strained off the citrus, chopped up 2 plum tomatoes, about ½ cup of cilantro, and ½ of a jalapeño chile (seeds and membranes removed) and tossed them all into the mixture and placed it back into the fridge.

 For the Italian version I placed 3/4 cup of lemon juice, ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar and ¼ cup of red onion (I had bought some scallions for this but I completely lost my mind and forgot that I had wanted to use them in this recipe!). I placed this in a bowl in the refrigerator for one hour also. After the appointed time, I strained off the citrus, chopped some green olives, and a chiffonade of fresh basil. I tossed this all together and placed back in the fridge.

The Yucatan version I placed 1/3 cup of lemon juice, 1/3 cup of lime juice, 1/3 cup Rice Vinegar, 3/4 cup of coconut milk, 1 teaspoon of low sodium soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped ginger, ½ of a Habanero chile (stem and membrane removed). I let that soak up the juices in the fridge for an hour as well. I then pulled it out, strained of the citrus and placed it back in the fridge.

I then went about making the Avocado Soup. I placed 2 tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet and 2 pats of butter, I let that get hot and then put in ½ of a chopped yellow onion. I let that cook close to carmelization, then added about 1 cup of cilantro. I cooked that off to just after the cilantro wilted, then I placed that into the blender with 6 cups of vegetable stock. One has to be cautious with Avocados, as they turn black very quickly after cutting them due to oxidation. So once everything was in the blender, I cut up and scooped out the flesh from 3 Haas avocados. I pureed this all together and covered and put in the refrigerator until it was cool.

So after about 3 hours in the kitchen, everything was ready to taste. I pulled my ceviche from the refrigerator and began plating. I squirted out some Sriracha sauce on 1/3 of the plate for the Yucatan ceviche, I drizzled a balsamic reduction on the center 1/3 of the plate for the “Tuscan” ceviche, then I spooned a bit of the avocado soup on the last 1/3 of the plate for the Mexican ceviche. Now, as you can see from the photo, there were some lessons learned here. Number 1, I should have drained the ceviche completely, because the minute I plated the ceviche, the citrus began to bleed out into the sauce. Number 2, I should have had my wife take a picture immediately. By the time I brought the plate over to the table for the photo, all the bleeding caused the sauces to intermingle, which completely ruined the presentation.

The Plating

The bleeding plate

My wife and I then went about tasting each and offering our opinions. My Yucatan ceviche, in my opinion, was quite delicious, with the coconut flavor coming up through the sweet lobster meat, with a small hint of the Habanero chile coming up as well. Together with the Sriracha, I thought this was a great combination. The only thing it was missing was some fresh herb such as cilantro, or maybe even some mint! The “Tuscan” ceviche fell bit short. Although I think the flavor of the balsamic and lemon worked well, the mistake in this dish was the red onion and especially the green olive. The green olives were just too briny and bitter. This gave the dish no balance to the acidity of the citrus and vinegar. Some oil cured black olives would have worked better or even something like some roasted red pepper or sun-dried tomato.  Finally, the Mexican ceviche was as expected, a safe, fresh blend of flavors. The only critique would be that the citrus overpowered the lobster a bit.  I would probably cut the marinate time from 1 hour to ½ hour on the next attempt. The avocado soup sauce was a good sauce for the dish.

The last step was to plate my audition dish. I took a shallow pasta bowl out of the cupboard, formed my ceviche in the center with the mold, ladled out the avocado soup around the ceviche, and then pulled the mold. I placed a bit of sour cream around the ceviche and took a knife to make a swirl in the soup. Now, this was quite nice, although the problem was that by now the avocado soup was beginning to turn a brownish-black. I will have to find some way to prevent this from happening for the audition. Can you imagine me serving black avocado soup to the judges?

In closing, it was a good 3 hours spent in the kitchen. The reward was of course, tasting the three different creations. Should you make any of these, I would definitely recommend a nice crisp sparkling wine as an accompaniment.  The right sparkling wine can handle the bold, citrus-chili flavors that are the essence of any ceviche. I personally would recommend one of the Italian variety, a Zardetto from the Prosecco region would do nicely!