Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ceviche Ceviche!!

Ceviche & Tostadas on the terrace of mi casa (Summer 2012)

I have a bit of a confession to make.  I am totally addicted to Ceviche! 
It is one of those dishes that in the summer months I can't seem to get enough of, 
and in all other seasons, are the flavors I deeply crave.
Perhaps it is the combination of flavors that are accentuated so well together:
The freshest of fish, the red onion, the jalepeno (or habenero if you're lucky), 
the avocado, the tomatoes, the cilantro and THE LIME!!
Traditional Mexican Ceviche with Snapper
There's so many types of Ceviche that make my mouth water!
There's Peruvian accompanied by citrus and corn,  
Chilean with garlic, chilies & mint
and Cuban made with mahi mahi or squid!  
Equadorian is langostinos based combined with flavors of citrus, chocio (corn salad)  
and overall is a bit on the sweeter side, since there is some sugar added!
Then there's Costa Rican with marlin, shark & hot tabasco! 
Mexican (my top choice) is with shrimp, crab or tuna, citrus, avocado and hot peppers...
all-in-all a little bit of everything in one bite! 
 And mustn't forget the Hawaiian - which has some of my most craved flavors
 of Coconut and even Pineapple. Yum!

The experience transports me from city living to dream locations such as...
Mamita's Beach Club, Playa del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico

But one great thing about Ceviche is that the preparation process is always simple!
It typically involves a marinade in citrus juices which actually "cooks" the seafood 
 quite a bit because of the acidity.  
It is always recommended to use the freshest of seafoods and you can always par-boil the fish and then blanch it for extra caution to ensure that no bacteria remains.
And I bet you're wondering how long a typical Ceviche takes to cook?  
 I usually suggest marinating fish in the citrus juices for up to 3 or 4 hours. This all depends upon the type of fish however (some fish "cook" quicker or longer in acidity than others). 

My favorite presentation is always in a trophy of a martini glass with crispy tortillas...

 And one of my top go-to Ceviche haunts in New York City is Lima's Ceviche Bar down on Christopher Street.  My favorite must-haves are the Ceviche Misto (just your traditional Mexican ceviche simplified & so refreshing
and the Lobster Ceviche (total creamy decadence just the way I like it!)...

Lima's Ceviche Bar, 122 Christopher St (@ Bedford St.), NYC

The Lobster Ceviche...heaven on a plate.

Here is one of my most favored, easy to make, go-to recipes of Ceviche enjoyment & great for when entertaining!    
Recipe below serves 2.  Duplicate the measuring for larger servings.

Mexican Halibut & Shrimp Ceviche


1/2 lb halibut fillet & 1/2 lb shrimp (peeled and de-veined).
5 -6 limes (Enough Juice to cover fish)
1/2 cup diced fresh tomato
1/2 green pepper, sweet, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh, chopped cilantro
1/4 teaspoon sea salt or *maldon salt (*my favorite, must try!)
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon oregano (mexican oregano is the best! Can be found at Williams-Sonoma!)

1 jalapeno pepper, chopped (or more to suit your taste)
1/2 small - medium red onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup of fresh squeezed Grapefruit juice
1 dash Tabasco sauce
lettuce leaf (to line serving bowls - optional)
avocado, sliced or cubed (optional)

Preparation & Cooking instructions:
1Clean & Dice the fish & peeled shrimp (approximately 1/2-inch dice)
2Marinate fish in the lime juice in the fridge for 3 - 4 hours, or longer if desired (this step cooks the fish).
3Stir occasionally.
4. Pour off most of the lime juice (just leave it moist).
5. Add remaining ingredients except lettuce, avocado and grapefruit juice. Do this preferably an hour or up to a few hours before serving & refrigerate.
6. Toss well and arrange in individual serving bowls or martini glasses that are lined with the lettuce leaves (optional)
7. Add 1 - 2 tablespoons of grapefruit juice to each individual serving to give it an extra citrus kick.
8. If you wish garnish with sliced or cubed avocado, a lime wedge and tortilla chips.
9. Serve immediately & chilled.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Engagement on a Stormy Night

Once upon a time, on a dark and stormy night on Manhattan's Upper West Side, with a full moon looming overhead..

Sitting in the coziness of my apartment, listening to the winds howling back and forth, whistling through windows and the sounds of rain pitter pattering.  All reminding me that this so-called "Frankenstorm" of a hurricane might be on it's way (or most likely not, according to many jaded New Yorkers like myself).  Either way, it was snug, warm and comfortable inside.  Sounds of Sinatra's swinging "Blue Moon" playing in the background.  The delicious aroma of THE Engagement Chicken slow-roasting in the oven.  And when I say "slow-roasting", I mean my painstaking attempt of tenderly and slowly caramelizing this thing with love for hours until the meat is literally holding onto it's bones for dear life.

There will be no engagement tonight however.  Unless it involves Blanca, my little Maltese and quite possibly the luckiest dog ever, who will undoubtedly be sharing some of this incredible dinner with me tonight.  But someday there may be a worthy man who is considered lucky enough to have experienced THE engagement chicken himself.  Only time will tell.

But for now, I bet I have you wondering..."What exactly IS the engagement chicken?".  Well, I am about to divulge possibly my greatest and most powerful culinary secret I have been keeping all to myself...ever.  And once you have made it: you'll know why.

 Glamour Magazine first published this legendary article in the 80's about the phenomenon:

"First comes chicken, then comes marriage? Be skeptical if you must, but this recipe may be charmed. It all began 26 years ago, when then-Glamour fashion editor Kim Bonnell gave the recipe to her assistant, Kathy Suder, who made the chicken for her boyfriend, who, a month later, asked her to marry him. “It’s a meal your wife would make. It got me thinking,” says Jon Suder, who now has three children with Kathy. Details of the simple dish passed from assistant to assistant like a culinary chain letter. When Bonnell heard that her recipe had inspired three weddings, she dubbed it Engagement Chicken."

  **My version is slightly different (and a bit more decadent to kick things up a notch) because somewhere along the lines I decided to add Garlic Herb Butter.  Uh oh! What a surprise.

1) First step in preparation (*full details are below) is to wash the bird and drain it in a colander until it hits room temp (15min).   Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

 2) Now for the lemons: and lots of them.  Squeeze the juice out of 4 or 5 of them until you reach 1/2 cup of lemon juice (this will be used to cover the chicken before roasting). 


3) Now for the (holy) Herb Butter: For this you will need 2 tablespoons of unsalted softened butter, 2 minced cloves of Garlic and 2 tbsp chopped Thyme.
In a small bowl using a fork, mash together the ingredients.
This mixture you will use to massage underneath the skin of the chicken and as a rub on the outside of the chicken as well.

You might want to make sure you DON'T have any warm crusty bread laying around.
Try to resist the temptation.  Must stay focused on the Engagement Chicken.

4)  Now comes the dressing: In a colander, pour the lemon juice all of the bird, inside and out.  Season with salt, pepper and chopped thyme (inside & out).   Place the bird in a roasting pan or casserole dish. Massage the butter mixture underneath the skins and all over the exterior of the bird.
Place two whole lemons (pierced w/ a fork throughout) into the cavity of the chicken. Stuff Thyme or any other herbs you desire inside.  Tightly tie the legs together with twine to hold everything in.

5)  Now comes the roasting:  Roast breast-side-down at 425 degrees for 20 min. or until beginning to brown.   Remove from the oven and using wooden spoons, carefully flip the bird over. Pour in a base (1/4 cup to 1/2 cup depending on size of pan) of Chicken Stock to the bottom of the pan surrounding the bird.
Lower the oven temperature to 250 degrees and roast an additional 3-4 hours or until the internal temperature (inside center of the breast with a poultry thermometer) reaches 180 degrees.  Make sure to baste the bird with the juices occasionally during cooking.

This allows for some good quality time...

And now something little in the meanwhile (while salivating over the delicious scent permeating the house):

Manchego, Emmental, Fig Jam, Salt & Pepper crackers (yum!!)


 And speaking of popping the question, I am reminded of a certain couple I know well who were engaged over heart-shaped eggs in a skillet.  
My very own Dad and his wife Monica.  
This must be the male idea version of engagement culinary skills:

Engagement Chicken

Full recipe

1 whole chicken (approx. 4 lbs)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (juice of 4-5 lemons)
1/2 cup Chicken Stock (broth)
Kosher or sea salt
Ground black pepper
2 extra lemons plus 1 extra for garnish  
2 tbsp. unsalted butter (softened)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped Thyme
Thyme sprigs or other fresh herbs for garmish

Preparation & Cooking Method:
1.  Place rack in upper third of oven and preheat to 425 degrees. 
2. Remove giblets and wash chicken inside and out with cold water, let it drain, cavity down, in a colander until it reaches room temperature (about 15 minutes).  Pat dry with paper towels.
3. In a small bowl, combine the softened butter, minced garlic and chopped Thyme.  Mash with a fork until it forms a paste consistency and is well combined. 
4. In colander, pour lemon juice all over chicken (inside and outside).  Season with salt & pepper.
5.  In a baking pan or casserole dish, place chicken in pan and  massage the butter mixture underneath the skins, inside the cavity and on the outside of the chicken.
6. Prick two whole lemons three times with a fork and place deep inside the cavity.  Tie the legs of the chicken together tightly with cooking twine.
7.  Place the bird breast-side down on the rack in the roasting pan and bake uncovered for 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and turn it breast-side up using wooden spoons.  Lower oven temp. to 250 degrees and bake uncovered for 3 - 4 hours or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees. (Test for doneness by inserting the meat thermometer into the thigh or breast and juices should run clear when chicken is pricked with a fork).
8. Remove chicken from pan & juices.  Let chicken cool for 15 minutes before carving. 
9. Serve with  juices on the side and garnish with fresh herbes and lemon wedges.


***Side note:  This recipe can also be made in half the cooking time.  Just up the temperature during the 2nd stage of the roasting process (from 250 degrees to 350 degrees).  Will take almost half the amount of time but a little less savory. Still always flawlessly amazing every time!