One of my strongest food memories from Zacapú, Mexico is walking with my sister and cousin to a small eatery that served possibly the best seafood tostadas I have ever tried (woah). It was a walk around town that I was always proud of because despite our broken Spanish, this venture started with a simple point-at-picture-and-nod and ended with lip-smacking satisfaction. The three of us would order at least two or three perfect tostadas topped with various seafood combinations but my favorite carried the name: ceviche de camarón.
There’s something about this weather in Oregon now (a ridiculous 86F) that made me yearn for this combination of sour, salty, crunchy, tangy, and fresh. So I made my way to the store and bought a pound and a half of shrimp and got working.
The recipe that follows takes raw shrimp and slow cooks it in an acid bath of lemon and lime juices. This process, which ideally takes overnight, is important in achieving that rich, seafood flavor without heat and is necessary in assuring the shrimp is safe to eat. Here are a few notes for the love of my study, food science!
– ceviche cooks raw seafood by denaturing proteins with citric and ascorbic acid found in lemons and limes
-small pieces of shrimp ensure a thorough cooking process with greater surface area
-while acid inhibits the ability for certain bacteria to function, it does not kill microorganisms like heat does
-if you are weary of food safety, I recommend buying shrimp that has been previously flash frozen, which kills bacteria during processing. You can ask your local seafood deli whether fresh shrimp has been frozen or not
-boiling, grilling, and sautéing shrimp are also delicious alternatives to cold cooking!
Yield: 5 servings (bowl for chip dunking) or 10 hefty-topped tostadas
-1.5 pound large shrimp with shell (previously/currently frozen)
-small bunch of cilantro
-1 large cucumber
-half a red onion (because I’m picky like that)
-2 serrano peppers
-salt and pepper to taste
-good chips or tostadas for serving
Defrost the shrimp in cold water if it is still frozen and completely de-shell and clean. If your shrimp still has the black vein running along the back spine, you can easily remove this with a toothpick inserted perpendicular to the spine and pulling up to remove the icky stuff. Chop the shrimp in smaller-than-bite-size pieces (about ½ inch) and put in a large bowl. Roll the lemons and limes to get their juices flowing (and because it’s fun), cut them in half, and juice into the bowl containing the shrimp. If you don’t have a juicer thing, you can just use the head of a spoon and some elbow grease. Cover the bowl and reside in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. You want to make sure that the shrimp meat has completely turned white and no translucency is visible.
Finely chop you cilantro, onion, and serrano peppers. I’d recommend wearing gloves to remove the seeds of the pepper and for chopping, since I ended up rubbing my eyes accidently afterwards (oops!). If you do get it on your hands, capsaicin (that hot, burning stuff in spicy food) is lipid-soluble! Which means you can just dunk your hand in some rendered chicken fat to get it off (or milk)! :-)
Add this to the bowl of “cooked” shrimp and citrus juice. Cut the cucumber lengthwise, scrape out the innards with a spoon, and chop into ½ inch pieces. Dice the tomatoes and add all the veggies to the bowl. Mix thoroughly, salt and pepper to taste, and it’s all done! I like to top my ceviche with fresh avocado (diced or slices). I don’t add it to the ceviche since it usually gets smashed, so I just use it during right-on-the-spot eating.
Cool, my friends. You’ve just created one shrimp ceviche dish that is totally sexy. It even makes you feel sexy. You’re welcome.