photos by Ashleigh Amoroso
When we were in Costa Rica a couple weeks ago, Adam and I couldn’t stop raving about the flavorful ceviche that was as incredible at roadside stands as it was at fine dining restaurants. I vowed to myself that I’d attempt to recreate it back home, so we had Hannah Yerby, sous chef at highly anticipated seafood spot Guild, come over to the bungalow and demystify it for the home cook. Turns out, making great ceviche really can be super easy when you’re armed with good fish and a few tricks of the trade. Keep reading for Hannah’s expert tips, plus her recipe for the most insane yellowtail ceviche with cherries, cucumbers and mint. YUM. And if you can’t wait for Guild to open, scoop up your tix to the upcoming Austin Entertains event on Feb. 22! (more on that below.) Take it away, Hannah!
From Hannah: Raw fish is not a mystery, but it can be intimidating to people who wouldn’t typically prepare it at home. I think this is mostly because of the uncertainty that comes from eating raw proteins – many people think it’s better left to the professionals! Ceviche is a very safe preparation to dip your toe into the waters of raw fish, as the high amount of acid in a typical ceviche coming from citrus juice will cook the fish without any heat if it’s allowed to sit for long enough.
Tip #1: If you enjoy the taste and texture of raw fish, you can marinate it for five to ten minutes to get the flavor of citrus without cooking the meat. If you’d like to cook the fish all the way through, let it sit in the marinade for up to an hour to fully cure. The longer it marinates, the more it will continue to cook.
Tip #2: Buy from somewhere you trust. Many grocery stores with a good fish department will stock proteins that are appropriate to eat raw. Central Market and Whole Foods are two that always carry frozen blocks of fish that are great for ceviche.
If you’re unsure of whether or not to trust your local market’s fish department, you can do a couple things: speak to one of the fish mongers. Can they answer your questions about what fish would be appropriate to eat raw? After that, look around at their fish display. Everything in the display should be kept on crushed ice to be as cold as possible. Any whole fish should be stored in the same position the fish would swim – nose to tail going horizontally. Any cutting boards or workspace behind the counter should look clean. Good fish displays should smell clean and a little like the ocean. If the area smells distinctly fishy, something is off.
Tip #3: The term “sushi grade” is used in grocery stores, but it means practically nothing. It’s mostly for marketing purposes. There’s no true legal grading system of fish the way there is for beef. “Sushi grade” simply means that the vendor has deemed the fish safe to eat raw, but there are no standardized practices for determining this label.
Tip #4: Don’t be afraid to buy frozen. Just because something in the case isn’t frozen doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the freshest you can get. Most people don’t realize that pretty much every bit of seafood that grocery stores receive has been previously frozen at some point and then thawed for display. By FDA standards, many kinds of fish have to be frozen down to a certain temperature to kill off specific kinds of bacteria and parasites. Fish that has been frozen throughout can be safer to eat raw than something that has been thawed and sitting out for several days. As a general rule, tuna, farmed salmon, and yellowtail are some of the fish least likely to carry parasites if they’ve been handled correctly.
Tip #5: Both heat from cooking and acid in a ceviche marinade will do similar things, scientifically speaking. In both cases, the proteins in a piece of fish will begin to undergo the process of denaturing, meaning the molecules will unravel and alter the chemical properties. Fish marinated in citrus will begin to look opaque like a cooked piece of meat. That said, because no heat is applied, any bacteria in the fish will not be killed. For this reason, it’s important to buy fish from a location you trust that has been handled responsibly.
And y’all, I’m excited about this event happening in Austin on February 22nd (where Hannah will be cooking!) Austin Entertains is going to be a delicious night led by Austin’s greatest female chefs and creative cocktails from all-female bartenders. I love supporting the women who are doing amazing things in our culinary scene, so hop on over to score your tickets right here!
Keep scrolling for the recipe for this Spicy Ceviche with Cherries, Cucumber, & Mint…