This week’s selection for French Fridays with Dorie was Winter Ceviche, a quick appetizer that brought a little tropical tease to my kitchen located in the deep freeze of New England.
Ceviche is a preparation for raw fish or seafood which is then “cooked” for a few hours in an acidic marinade. This version started with bay scallops, which are much smaller than the more familiar sea scallops. Bay scallops are seasonal, and I hadn’t seen them around in a while, but I got lucky and found them at my first stop (Whole Foods). They were half the price of sea scallops and because I only needed 6 to make a half recipe, they only set me back $2.25. Miraculous!
The marinade is made from fresh lemon and lime juice plus the lemon and lime zest, some mango nectar and a touch of brown sugar. The scallops are refrigerated in this acidic fruit bath for a few hours to “cook”. In the meantime, thinly sliced shallots are lightly doused in vinegar for a pickled garnish.
At serving time, all that’s left to do is toss some tarragon leaves with oil and divide them amongst the plates. Then using a slotted spoon, transfer the scallops to the bed of leaves. Dip some halved grapes into the remaining marinade and add to the plate, then top it all with the pickled shallots. As they say in France, “Voilà!”
This ceviche provides a good basic formula. I think it would be equally delicious with another white fish or shrimp, raw or cooked. Or I might try substituting different herbs like parsley, cilantro, or even arugula in place of the tarragon. Some thinly sliced chili would be at home too.
I hope I remember this recipe next time I have a seated dinner party where I want to serve a plated first course. (By the way, don’t overestimate my entertaining skills. A plated first course would put me in much fancier territory than my usual dinner parties which begin at the kitchen island with a help-yourself assortment of cheese and crackers and dips, chosen so I can socialize with the guests while I finish up dinner.)
On first glance, ceviche, the Latin American cured fish salad and this week’s selection for French Fridays with Dorie, doesn’t seem very French. Dorie explains that this dish inspired by the cuisine of Senegal, who exports avocados and mangoes. I’m not clear how those influences jump from Africa to the Americas but I’ll take it on faith.
I love sushi, and I’ve ordered ceviche in restaurants. It never occurred to me to make ceviche at home, mostly because of the raw fish issue. Somehow I trust a restaurant’s sources more than my own. I’m just not sure how comfortable I am with the quality of what I can buy, and whether the citrus juice really cooks the fish enough for it to be safe to eat.
As I did for the tuna confit, I bought frozen ahi tuna steaks at Trader Joe’s. It wasn’t sushi quality, but it was frozen which I think kills any parasites. Because the package of tuna was a full pound, I added the juice from an extra lime for some added “cooking action”. We didn’t get sick so that was probably OK.
The rest of the dish was reminiscent of the mango guacamole that we make all the time, with the extra addition of grated ginger.
This made a lot, and since it didn’t seem like it would keep, the two of us ate most of it for dinner. With the leftovers, I picked out the tuna chunks and microwaved them, then stirred them back in. It wasn’t as good as dinner, but at least nothing went to waste.
This definitely wasn’t my favorite from Around My French Table, probably not even in the top 50%, but I chalk that up more to comfort with food safety, than flavors.