Frontera Grill's Now-Classic Ceviche
Makes about 4 cups, enough for 6 to 8 as a starter
I never tire of this ceviche: the lilt of fresh-fresh fish infused with straight-ahead flavors of Mexican street food (lime, chiles, onion, cilantro) and finished to a consistency that’s perfect for piling on tortilla chips or tostadas. That’s my favorite way to eat ceviche, the sweet, toasty corn flavor of the crisp-fried corn tortilla being the perfect counterpoint to soft-textured brilliance of good ceviche. We’ve had this ceviche on the menu at Frontera Grill for over two decades.
1 pound “sashimi-quality” skinless meaty ocean fish fillet (halibut, snapper and bass are great choices), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
About 1 1/2 cups fresh lime juice
1 small white onion, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
Hot green chiles to taste (roughly 2 or 3 serranos or 1 large jalapeno), stemmed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup pitted green olives, preferably manzanillos
1 large (about 10-ounce) ripe round tomato, cored, seeded (if you wish) and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
OR 1/4 cup (lightly packed, about 1 ounce) soft sundried tomatoes, chopped into 1/8-inch pieces
1/4 small jícama, peeled and chopped into 1/4-inch pieces
(optional, but suggested if using sundried tomatoes)
1/4 cup (loosely packed) chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off)
2 tablespoons olive oil, preferably extra-virgin
1 teaspoon sugar
About 16 ounces of sturdy tortilla chips or 3- to 4-inch tostadas (preferably chips or tostadas from a local tortillería), for serving
1. “Cook” the fish in the lime juice. In a large non-reactive bowl (stainless steel or glass are best), combine the fish, lime juice and onion. The fish cubes should float freely in the juice; if they don’t, add a little more juice. Cover and refrigerate until the fish is as “done” as you like: 30 minutes to an hour for medium-rare, 3 to 4 hours for “cooked” all the way through. If you’re planning to serve your ceviche on chips or tostadas, tip off all the lime juice; to serve in dishes or glasses, tip off about half the juice. (Sad to say that the juice is fishy tasting at this point and can’t easily be used for another preparation or another round of ceviche. In Peru, however, they season it, pour it into shot glasses and serve it as sangre de tigre—tiger’s blood.)
2. Flavor the ceviche. In a mini food processor, process the green chile and olives until finely chopped (or finely chopped by hand). Add to the fish along with the tomato, optional jícama, cilantro and olive oil. Stir well, then season with salt (usually about a scant teaspoon) and sugar. Refrigerate until ready to serve—preferably no longer than an hour or two. Serve the “dry” version with the chips or tostadas for your guests to use a little edible plates; serve the “wet” version in small dishes or glasses.
Working Ahead: The fish can be marinated in lime and completely drained (even if you’re going to add back some of the juice) early in the day you’re going to serve; cover tightly and refrigerate. All the vegetables and the cilantro can be prepped, mixed, covered and refrigerated early in the day, too. Mix and season the ceviche within two hours of serving; keep it refrigerated until the last moment.