It’s National Ceviche Day! I think this may only be a food holiday in Peru, but let’s just pretend I’m in South America for the day, not Detroit. Cool?
Ceviche is one of those things that allow me to appreciate the science and chemistry of cooking. The conventional wisdom is that the acid of the citrus juice “cooks” the seafood, but upon some further research, I’ve discovered that the citric acid in the lemon and lime juice causes the proteins in the seafood to become denatured, which means that the seafood lookslike it is cooked (it will become more opaque and firm). The very fact that citrus juice can do this at all is pretty amazing to me. However, it is still a raw fish dish – if you like sushi, you’ll probably like ceviche. However, if you’re pregnant or your immune system has issues, you may want to skip it, because the acid in the lime juice will not be able to kill any stray bacteria or parasites the way that heat does (treat yourself with some fully-cooked Greek Shrimp Bruschetta instead). I probably don’t need to tell you this, but it’s important to start with the freshest, best-quality seafood you can find. Use this as an excuse to head to a great fish market in your area.
Invite your friends over for a ceviche party, and wow them with the chemistry experiment. Although be prepared for detailed explanations to skeptical diners. I wrote a similar shrimp ceviche recipe for a publishing company I work for. It was published in a grocery store magazine, and shortly after it hit newsstands the publishing company received a voicemail from a very confused lady that thought we had accidentally forgotten the step where you cook the shrimp. We returned her call and tried to explain how ceviche works, but I’m pretty sure she didn’t trust us. Oh well, her loss, right? She’ll miss out on the spicy, tangy, fresh summer delight that is ceviche!
Yield: 4 servings
- 1 pound 51-60 count peeled and deveined shrimp
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 3/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/4 teaspoon lime zest
- 1 large tomato, seeded and finely chopped
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/4 cup finely chopped peeled cucumber
- 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion
- 1-1/2 tablespoons seeded and minced jalapeño
- Lime wedges for garnish (optional)
- Tortilla chips for serving (optional)
- In medium bowl, combine shrimp and 1/2 cup each lemon and lime juice. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or up to overnight, stirring at least 2 or 3 times.
- In small bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, paprika, salt, lemon and lime zest, and remaining 2 tablespoons each lemon and lime juice.
- Just before serving, pour excess liquid off of shrimp mixture. Add tomato, cilantro, cucumber, onion, jalapeño and oil mixture; toss to combine. Serve immediately garnished with lime wedges, with tortilla chips, if desired.