The power (and taste) of suggestion

I’m back from the annual fishing trip to Montauk, Long Island, with “the guys.”

As usual, we had a grand time.  Good camaraderie, good eating, good weather. 

Last year I reported on our yearly fish-fueled cooking frenzy and two of the dishes we prepared.  During one of the many food conversations we had on that trip, a comment was made about the possibility of making a ceviche with some of the striper caught that day.  The thought stuck with me. Since I was in charge of the provisions and at least a sketch of a menu for this year’s adventure, I figured “why not?”

I did a little research and applied some common sense and came up with a plan.  I had a mixture of sour orange and lemon juice for the marinade, a red onion, some Serrano chiles and assumed we’d be landing some striped bass.

Of course, the plan went a bit astray when I realized I’d left the marinating juices here in Trenton.  No problem, I’d also taken some fresh lemons with me.

One of the gems I’d gathered while searching the internet for ceviche recipes and process was that you DO NOT want to marinate the fish too long.  There were some reports complaining that the fish, specifically striped bass, got too tough if left too long in the juices.  I didn’t want to risk that so I had to plan the timing just right.

Our usual routine on fishing days is to charter a boat for the morning.  Upon returning to our base (a home borrowed from a friend of one of the fishermen) we refresh and regroup.  Bill and Kevin, the hardcore anglers, usually head out to try their luck at surf fishing for a couple of hours.  I catch a nap and upon arising start planning out the happy hour snacks and dinner menu. 

A little bit before 1600 hours, I started to prep the ceviche.  I took the two striper filets we’d held out for that night’s dinner and trimmed about two inches off of the thick (head) end of each.  After trimming away any of the darker colored meat and removing any stray bones, I cut the flesh into between about a 3/8 inch dice.

The diced fish was placed in a ceramic bowl and lightly seasoned then almost covered with fresh squeezed lemon juice.  I tossed the mixture and put the bowl in the refrigerator. 

While the fish marinated, I took another bowl and added the sliced Serranos, thinly sliced onion, diced yellow bell pepper, minced garlic and chopped tomato.  A pinch of salt and a drizzle of lemon juice dressed the veggies. 

After 30 minutes in the fridge, I checked the fish.  It had turned opaque throughout. 

Bill and Kevin had returned from surf fishing and were ready to snack and have a cocktail.

I topped the dish of fish with some of the fresh salsa and served the ceviche with crackers.  It was well received and might become a staple of future trips.

Striper Ceviche

4 to 6* ounces of the freshest striped bass filet you can find

juice from 2 or 3* lemons…you want enough to just about cover the fish when marinating

1 clove of garlic, minced

1/4 small red onion sliced as thinly as possible

1 small yellow pepper, cut in 1/4 inch dice

3 serrano chiles, cut in rings (leave seeds and membranes intact or remove to lessen heat)

1 plum tomato coarsley chopped

salt

black pepper

red pepper flakes

Make sure the fish is fresh, cold and trimmed of all dark colored meat.  Cut into between 1/4 inch and 1/2 inch dice.  In non-reactive bowl, add fish, salt, pepper and pepper flakes.  Toss to season and mix.  Add enough lemon juice to just about cover the fish.  Place bowl in refrigerator for about 30 minutes, every 10 minutes to make sure all the fish comes in contact with the citrus juice.

To make the salsa for topping the ceviche, mix the vegetable with a scant pinch of salt, a little black pepper and a drizzle of lemon juice.  Set aside.

When the fish has turned opaque throughout, remove from fridge and serve topped with the fresh salsa and some good crackers.

Serves 4 to 6 as a light snack.

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