Ceviche

Two asides before I begin. First, posting is going to be irregular for reasons that will probably turn up in another post. Simply stated, though I’m not employed I’m busy.

Second, this post is a response to Tamara’s “hot weather cooking” post — I started to make a comment there and realized I was getting post-length.

Ceviche is an alternative method of “cooking”. It uses acids to treat the meat instead of heat, and the technique generally comes from South America. While it’s most commonly found with fish, it can be used with other meats as well.

Before I go into details I want to address safety. See, a lot of people wonder if the food is safe if it isn’t heat treated. The answer is yes, with caveats. Heat will kill bacteria. So will extremes of ph (acid or alkaline). Lutefisk, a dish I’ll not go into here, is an example of alkaline treatment.

I said there’s a caveat. The acid has to get to the bacteria, and it has to stay in contact long enough to do the job. There are a couple of ways to do this, both get used in various ceviche techniques, and I’ll get there. But this has a taste impact as the acid will add significant flavor to your meat.

“Classic” ceviche is simple. Make a pico de gallo (basically a base of chopped tomato, chopped onion, and chopped jalapeno, with additional herbs and liquids to taste). Chop (or finely dice) a white fish, and mix three to four parts fish with one part pico, then pack it light to moderately in a bowl. Pour enough lime juice over this to cover. After half an hour, stir and tamp down slightly, adding a bit more lime juice if necessary to cover. After an hour all the fish should appear cooked (gone from translucent to opaque), and it’s ready to eat. Typical service is as a dip or spread on snack crackers, but I’ve had it as a straight meal as well.

I’ve used sea bass, whitefish, cod, and others of that sort with no problems. I’ve also used lemon juice instead of lime. Worth noting, lemon produces a stronger flavor and you’ll want a strong fish and pico to balance it.

You can – I have – use this for chicken as well. You can supposedly do it with beef, mutton, pork, and other meats as well. While I’ve not made ceviche from these I have made sauerbraten, so I believe it. Which raises the next point: it does not have to be citrus acid. Vinegars work, too.

If it’s too hot to cook, even to grill, a ceviche might be just the thing.

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