There's at least one national food holiday for every single day of the year, but not all are created equal. National Ceviche Day, which is today's food holiday, is an easy holiday to observe here in Los Angeles -- as both diner and cook, given the vast array of choices in cevicherias and fresh ingredients. Since we've chosen four for a short list of great ceviche dishes, we thought we'd add tips for home cooks interested in trying the dish at home.
For this, we looked to Octavio Olivas of Ceviche Project, which Olivas runs with his wife Shannon. It's a pop-up fueled by passion for the dish, since the pair have other rather time-consuming careers (he's a lawyer; she's in investor relations).
A native of Mexico City turned Angeleno, Olivas has been making ceviche since childhood when his father would take the family from one coast of Mexico to the other. Nowadays, the couple often travel to different regions of Central America with an agenda of trying new ceviches, going to as many as 10 different restaurants on each trip. It explains how he has, with the exception of an oysters mignonette starter, never repeated a recipe on his 5-course menus. Turn the page for his tips on what to keep in mind when making ceviche at home.
5. How to pair citrus with seafood:
All citrus fruits -- tangerine, key lime, Mandarin oranges, tangelo -- may be fair game, but some pair better with certain types of seafood. Olivas says that "certain seafood requires more acidity, like shrimp, in which case I tend to use lime. While other seafood, like a more delicate fish such as halibut, requires less acidity -- and I like to use an alternate citrus like grapefruit or tangerine. It's really all about playing with flavors and textures."
4. If using lime, avoid the center:
According to Olivas, the pith, or center of the lime, is where all the sourness resides. Cut away from the center and towards the sides.
3. Be particularly choosy with shrimp
Olivas warns that there are a lot of bad shrimp out there, packed with chemicals and preservatives. And this shrimp will react badly once citrus juices are added. If you ever wonder why your shrimp ceviche tastes carbonated, it's probably due to the quality of seafood.
2. Make friends with your local fishmonger:
Olivas recommends going to markets like McCall's Fish & Meat Co. in Silver Lake, Fish King in Glendale, and downtown's L.A. Fish Company, where you'll have better access to not only fresh product, but relevant information -- like your seafood's source. They'll also help you with special requests.
1. Check fish for freshness:
As with sashimi, carpaccio or poke, good fish ceviche requires the freshest seafood. No amount of aromatics, citrus or chile, can save your dish if you're not using the highest quality. Olivas recommends checking the fish's eyes and gills, making sure that there's no odor and that the flesh is firm.
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