Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heather Taylor: Chef Speak: Rick Bayless

Heather Taylor: Chef Speak: Rick Bayless: "Alaskan Halibut Ceviche with Cilantro-Serrano 'Chimichurri', Cucumber and Avocado"

Alaskan Halibut Ceviche with Cilantro-Serrano "Chimichurri", Cucumber and Avocado
Makes about 4 ½ cups, serving 8 to 10 as a starter.

1/2 head garlic, cloves broken apart
2 to 3 fresh serrano chiles
1 medium bunch cilantro, thick bottom stems cut off
1 small bunch flat-leaf parsley, thick bottom stems cut off
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 1/2 pounds "sashimi-quality" skinless, boneless fish fillets-- Rick's favorites are Alaskan halibut, ahi tuna and aqua-cultured Kona Kampachi (a type of yellowtail)--cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 (7 ounces total) small "pickle" cucumbers (the kind you get in the farmers' market) or Persian (baby) cucumbers, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 ripe large avocados, pitted, flesh scooped from skin and then cut into cubes
Lettuce leaves (butter lettuce works great here) for garnish

1. Make the herb seasoning. Set a dry skillet over medium heat. Lay in the unpeeled garlic cloves and chiles. Roast, turning frequently, until soft and blotchy brown in spots, about 10 minutes for the chiles and 15 minutes for the garlic. Cool until handleable, then slip the skins off the garlic, pull stems off the chiles and roughly chop (no need to remove the seeds). Place in a food processor along with the cilantro (about 1 cup if packed), parsley (about 1 cup if packed), oil and 2 generous teaspoons salt. Process until nearly smooth (it will be pasty). Scrape into a storage container and refrigerate until serving time.

2. Finish the ceviche. In a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice and ½ cup of the herb seasoning. (Cover and refrigerate the remainder for another preparation.) Add the fish and cucumber, and stir to combine. To blend the flavors, cover and refrigerate for a half hour (for best results no more than an hour). Taste and season with a little more lime juice or salt if you think necessary, gently stir in the avocado (save out a little for garnish if you want), then serve on lettuce leaf-lined plates or martini glasses.

Recipe notes from Rick:
I don't usually follow regular ceviche procedure here, thoroughly "cooking" the fish in lime juice for several hours before serving. Instead, I toss the raw fish with lime and flavorings, scoop it into something pretty and carry it to the table--that's the essence of freshness. But if that doesn't sound good to you, stir a couple of cups fresh lime juice into the raw fish, refrigerate it for a couple of hours until the fish has a cooked texture, drain it and add the herb mixture and vegetables. Or just use cooked shrimp instead of raw fish, which I did last week for dinner and loved the outcome.

One thing to keep in mind: you'll have more than you need of the herb mixture (we call it Mexican chimichurri in our kitchen). You'll thank me for that. Store it in a covered container in the refrigerator (pour a film of oil over the top). It'll keep for a month or more. I smear it on chicken before grilling or roasting it. I stir it into scrambled eggs. I add it to salad dressing and cream sauces. It'll make your everyday cooking taste special-occasion.

Working Ahead: As I said, the herb seasoning can be stored in the refrigerator for a month or more. All the basic prep work can be done early in the day you're serving; store everything separately, covered, in the refrigerator. Mix and season the ceviche shortly before serving--no more than hour--waiting to add the avocado until the guests have assembled.

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