Monday, June 20, 2005

Smoking Break

This week's Carnival of The Recipes has been up since late Friday, and I've had a good amount of traffic from it as usual.

This weekend, to celebrate father's day, I treated myself to some quiality time with the smoker. The results were hit and miss. I finally figured out that if I fill the bottom bin completely with charcoal instead of just adding a chimney's worth, it will maintain a good, even heat in the right range for about 6-7 hours. Armed with that knowledge, I did a rack of ribs that put my first efforts to shame. I made a couple of changes to the rub recipe, one accidentally and one intentionally, that I'll have to remember. Sunday I tried another batch of jerky, and was disappointed. The marinade I tried was ok but not spectacular, and I overcooked it, leaving me with crunchy jerky. Because of this, and despite the ribs, TFR has proclaimed that I am spending too much time with the smoker and must give it a rest for a few weeks. So my next few recipes will be either grill or other cooking forms, nothing involving a smoker.

Because of all the kind comments by Songstress from over at News from the Great Beyond, I thought I'd start out with a recipe that will not only NOT require that she purchase a grill, but heck, doesn't even require a stove. You DO have a fridge, don't you Ms. S?

Saturday night I whipped up a batch of ceviche and served it on Sunday to TFR. She was so impressed she had to call her mom, her sister, and her boss lady to brag. For those of you unfamiliar, ceviche is a Mexican seafood dish which relies on the chemical reaction of lime juice and salt rather than heat to cook the fish. I like to refer to it as "Sushi Salsa". It's delicious if done right, and is an excellent hot weather dish, as it's light, refreshing, and requires NO contact with a hot stove. So here, without further ado, is my:

Sushi Salsa Ceviche

1 lb. fish (I use tilapia, but cod, halibut, sunfish, or any white meat fish will do.)
1 large onion
2 tomatoes
3 cloves garlic
1 pepper (I prefer habanero, but jalapeno or Serrano would also work.)
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 tbsp. oregano (obviously, for a Mexican dish, Mexican oregano is preferred.)
1 cup lime juice (Fresh squeezed is best, but bottled will do. Try to get key limes or key lime juice if possible.)

Cut the fish into quarter-inch cubes. Any smaller and they’ll tend to fall apart, any larger and they’re too thick for the marinating process. Place the cubes in a large glass bowl It’s important to use glass. If you can’t, don’t bother making Ceviche. If you insist, use plastic or stainless steel. Avoid at all costs aluminum or copper, as the chemical reaction with the lime juice will ruin the taste. Salt the fish generously. Cut the tomatoes and onions into similarly sized chunks, mince the garlic finely, and add the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and oregano to the bowl. Salt and pepper generously.

Next, add the pepper. Most people use jalapenos, but I don’t like their flavor – it tastes too much like a strong bell pepper, and tends to dominate a dish. I prefer habaneros for two reasons: they’re hot as Hades; and their flavor aside from the heat is much more subtle. Using a habanero adds heat, but doesn’t interfere with the other flavors of the dish. If it’s too hot for you, a good compromise between the jalapeno and the habanero is the Serrano chili.

The next step is very important, especially if you decide to go with a habanero: Put on a pair of gloves. Habaneros are serious business. They are the hottest chili in the world, around 100 times hotter than a jalapeno. If you get any of it on your hands, and then touch sensitive tissue like your eyes, nose, or mouth, you will hurt. Trust me. Using a very sharp paring knife cut the pepper as finely as you possible can: the smaller the pieces, the better. Add to the bowl.

Pour in the lime juice, mix thoroughly. Add enough lime juice so that the entire mix is soaking in lime juice. Cover bowl, refrigerate. Marinate for 18-24 hours. Serve on tostadas or tortilla chips, garnish with avocado and more cilantro.

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