“It’s the best meal I’ve ever had in my life.” That was Chanel, two years ago, after she first visited Hartwood in Tulum. She isn’t one to lean into superlatives when it comes to food, so I made a mental note for my next trip to Mexico. The little restaurant on the jungle side of the main strip in Tulum is the self-proclaimed “love project” of ex-pats Eric Werner and Mya Henry. The daring young couple left their NYC restaurant jobs in 2010 to create their dream restaurant, using only only locally sourced, sustainable ingredients. I finally found myself sitting at one of Hartwood’s outdoor tables over Memorial Day weekend, and even with the expectations Chanel had set, every course wow’d. Just like Chanel, I’ll be thinking about that meal for a long time to come. That’s why I was thrilled when Eric and Mya offered to share a recipe with us from their recent award-winning cookbook, Hartwood: Bright, Wild Flavors from the Edge of the Yucatán. This colorful appetizer is just one page of the incredibly gorgeous book we’ve all been fighting over at the office — and we can’t wait to try out this recipe for ourselves. “Be sure to serve this dish in shallow bowls,” says Eric. “Everyone will want to drink the super-vegetal broth after they’ve finished the fish.”
“When you cut fish for ceviche, angle your knife at 45 degrees and make thin cuts against the grain so that each piece in about 1/4-inch thick,” says Eric. “Make sure that you are slicing in one fluid movement — it’s like slicing through an apple, not sawing through a loaf of bread. Be mindful that the grain might change as you move along the fish, so be sure to adjust the angle of your cut accordingly. Take your time. You’re making ceviche for your friends, not trying to beat the clock.”
Recipe excerpted from Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Gentl & Hyers. Photograph of outdoor bar by The Selby.
Ceviche de Atún
1 pound tuna steaks, skin removed
2 tablespoons kosher salt
½ cup dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea (or dried herb of choice, such as basil or oregano)
Trim away the deep purple blood line that runs through the tuna to remove as much of the iron-tasting blood as you can. Sprinkle with the salt and chamomile, put in an airtight container, and refrigerate for 30 to 45 minutes.
Rinse the tuna to remove the chamomile and salt and pat dry with paper towels. Angle your knife at 45 degrees and make thin ¼-inch-thick cuts against the grain. Be careful to make one fluid cut for each slice; cutting in a sawing motion will destroy the flesh. Put the slices in a medium bowl and add the leche de tigre (instructions below), turning to coat.
Remove the tuna slices from the liquid and divide among individual serving bowls. Spoon enough leche de tigre onto each plate to just cover the bottom of the bowl. Garnish with the avocado, grapefruit, cucumber, radishes, jalapeño, and dried chamomile.
Ruby Red Leche de Tigre
1 carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small beet, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 small red onion, cut into ½-inch-thick slices
3 tomatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 serrano chile
¼ cup fresh lime juice (from 2 to 3 limes)
2 cups coconut water, or more to taste
¾ cup fresh grapefruit juice
Pass the carrot, cucumber, beet, red onion, tomatoes, and serrano through a juicer. (Alternatively, use a blender: Put the carrot, cucumber, beet, onion, tomatoes, serrano, lime juice, and half the coconut water in a blender and blend on high speed until liquefied, 1 to 2 minutes. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve; discard the solids.)
Combine the vegetable liquid, lime juice (unless you used a blender), grapefruit juice, and (the remaining) coconut water in a bowl and mix well. Add salt to taste. (If the mixture is too spicy, add more coconut water.) Set aside.
1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and thinly sliced
1 grapefruit, suprêmed
½ cup diced peeled, seeded cucumber
2 radishes, julienned
1 jalapeño, thinly sliced
To "suprême" citrus: This is a classic restaurant technique for trimming off all the peel and bitter pith and separating the sections from the membranes so that all that is left is fruit. The secret is to use a super-sharp knife, which will cut with little effort; if the knife is dull, you’ll need to apply some pressure, and that’s where you get into trouble.
First, slice off the top and bottom of the fruit so that you see two tiny circles of flesh. Then, slice off the skin, pith, and outer membrane, following the curvature of the fruit. Trim off any white patches left after you cut off all the peel.
Now you can either stop here and just cut the fruit into ½-inch slices, or you can follow this standard chef’s technique. Holding the fruit in one hand and the knife in the other, working over a small bowl, slice as close as possible to the membranes that separate the sections: Slice along one, then the other, and flick the loosened section into the bowl. When the entire fruit has been sectioned, squeeze the juice from the remaining membranes with your hand and reserve for another use.
Excerpted from Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry with Christine Mulke and Oliver Strand (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Gentl & Hyers.