Have you heard of ceviche? It’s a popular dish in many Latin American countries that uses lemon or lime juice is used to “cook” raw fish.
Done well, ceviche means fish with a perfectly firm but tender texture, a bright citrus taste, and a pure fish flavor that you might associate with the freshest sashimi.
I just got back from an amazing trip to Costa Rica where I ate ceviche literally every single day. I ate it at a couple of high end restaurants as well as at countless bars and roadside sodas (family-run restaurants).
My favorite meal was in a little bar in the tiny surfer village of Estarillos Oeste. Here, the ceviche came with grilled corn, avocado, and local sea bass. This was the inspiration for the recipe I'm making here!
Ceviche is just all about timing. If you make your ceviche too far in advance, the fish will first become too firm and then begin to turn to mush as the citrus denatures the proteins. But if the fish hasn't marinated in the citrus juice for long enough, it will still be a little gelatinous.
Ceviche is perfect when the outside of the fish is an opaque white, but the inside is still just a smidge translucent.
I prefer to cut my fish for ceviche into good-sized chunks, about 1/2-inch wide. With pieces this size, I find the fish reaches the right texture after about 20 to 30 minutes.
If I’m in a hurry, I sometimes cut the chunks of fish smaller to cut the “cook” time down to 15 to 20 minutes instead.
It might take you a few tries to find your perfect texture! Start tasting the fish around the 15-minute mark, and taste every few minutes until your fish tastes good to you.
Also, although "cooking" fish in this way changes its texture and flavor, it's still raw from a food safety standpoint. It is extremely important to find a fishmonger you trust and who will sell you high quality fresh fish.
And one note on the corn for this recipe: When sweet corn is in season, it really only needs a few minutes to steam before it’s perfect. If you have the time, I think the extra step of throwing it on the grill or under the broiler for a couple of minutes is worth it for the charred flavor, but if you’re hurried, you can definitely skip that step.
Ceviche with Avocado and Grilled Corn
- 4 whole ears corn
- 4 to 6 limes, juiced (3/4 to 1 cup of juice)
- 1/4 red onion, very thinly sliced
- 1 pound firm white fish, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used halibut)
- 2 medium ripe avocados, diced
- 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- Thick-cut tortilla chips, to serve
Cook the corn
Fill a large pot with about an inch of water. Place a steamer basket in bottom of pot and layer corn on top. Cover tightly and cook on high for 10 minutes.
When cool enough to handle, shuck the corn.
If desired, brush the corn with oil and cook on a hot grill (or under a broiler set to high) for a couple of minutes on each side until the corn starts to caramelize and get crunchy in spots.
Allow to cool (you can carry on with making the ceviche). When it’s cool enough to handle, slice the corn off the cob. The corn can be prepared up to a day in advance.
Make and marinate the ceviche
In a large bowl, mix together the lime juice, red onion, and salt. Add the fish and stir so the fish is evenly coated with lime juice.
Cover and refrigerate for 15 to 30 minutes, until the fish is firm and opaque. Stir occasionally as you think about it. Start tasting the fish after 15 minutes, and continue until it is as firm as you like it.
Once it has reached your preferred firmness, it's best to serve the ceviche right away. (Ceviche left for too long will eventually become mushy and unappealing.)
When ready to serve, mix in the diced avocado, corn kernels, and chopped cilantro. No need to strain, before serving, though if it seems like there's a lot of liquid, serve with a slotted spoon.
Serve immediately with thick cut tortilla chips.