One of the best things about my cooking group is the fact that it
forces gives me the chance to push my culinary boundaries. Not only do I get to taste foods I wouldn’t otherwise, but I cook them as well.
This month’s theme was Rick Bayless recipes.
Unless you watch cooking shows as religiously as I do (or live in Chicago), you may not be familiar with Rick. He’s the authority on authentic Mexican cooking, author of several cookbooks (including Fiesta at Rick’s, where most of these recipes came from) and owner of two award-winning restaurants. I had never cooked any of his recipes, which can get very detailed. But Kathy, our host for the evening did a great job picking some of his less complicated ones.
For a snack with our margaritas, there were chili and garlic salted peanuts. The spanish word for peanuts is cacahuetes, which is just fun to say. They were fun to eat too, with plenty of spice.
The classic guacamole got a sweet twist with some fresh mango.
There was a gorgeous heirloom tomato salad (last of the season) with tomatillos, husk cherries, avocado and cilantro vinaigrette.
Another appetizer was Camarones a al Diabla or Devilish Shrimp for the unilingual among you…
My assignment was Rick’s Classic Ceviche, which I have to admit, I was a little hesitant about.
Not about the flavors, which I love. But about the raw fish “cooked” by lime juice. How does that even work?
I shouldn’t have even spent a moment over-thinking it. The ceviche was muy exquisito!
Of course living on the coast, we have access to the freshest fish, which is the only kind you should use in this dish.
I used halibut. It would be wonderful with scallops too.
Don’t hesitate to make this. It’s a lovely, light starter and people will be impressed with the magic way the fish “cooks” itself.
Rick Bayless’ Classic Ceviche
1 lb. fresh skinless halibut, snapper, bass or other white ocean fish fillets,
cut into 1/2″ dice
1 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lime juce
1/2 medium white onion, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
2 medium tomatoes, chopped into 1/2″ pieces
fresh hot green chiles (2-3 serranos or 1-2 jalapenos), stemmed, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus a few leaves for garnish
1/3 cup pitted green olives (Manzanillo if available)
1-2 Tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbps. fresh orange juice, or 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 large ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and diced
In a 1 1/2 quart glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the fish, lime juice and onion. Use enough juice to cover the fish and allow it to float freely. Too little juice will result in unevenly “cooked” fish. Cover and refrigerate for about 4 hours, until a cube of fish no longer looks raw when broken open. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, mix together the tomatoes, chiles, cilantro, olives, and olive oil. Stir in the fish and season with salt. Add the orange juice or sugar. Cover and refrigerate of not serving immediately.
Just before serving, gently stir in avocado.
The ceviche can be served in individual small dishes at the table, or in the large bowl as an appetizer with tortilla chips.
NOTE: Don’t allow fish to marinate in lime juice too long, or it will be too tangy. And do not use the lime juice – it will be too fishy.
The main course was Grilled Rack of Lamb with a Honey Pasilla Sauce, with a side of Classic White Mexican Rice with Sweet Plantains. Earthy and delicious, but not photogenic.
Dessert was another kind of Bayless magic trick. It’s called Impossible Cake.
See that layer of flan? It starts on the bottom and as the cake cooks, it somehow makes its way to the top. Pretty cool, huh? The science of that one has me stumped.
The bottom is chocolate and the caramel-y looking stuff on top is cajeta, goat’s milk caramel.
Si senorita! It’s as good as it looks.
If you’ve never cooked anything of Rick Bayless’ before, I urge you to give it a try. All his food is a little bit of magic.