What do you do for dinner when the 800 degree, 200% humidity weather has sapped you of your appetite (and possibly your will to live)? While the heat wave thankfully broke yesterday, the miserable oppressive weather we experienced over the last few days - and the meat-heavy, rich meal of the previous night - left me wanting something very light and refreshing after work, something that would not require me to turn on my oven. As they so often do, the culinary gods smiled down on me, leading me to run across this recipe for scallop ceviche on Serious Eats. A ceviche is a dish of seafood marinated in a citrus-based mixture - the acid from the citrus causes the protein in the seafood to become denatured, which pickles or "cooks" the seafood. I've made ceviches with snapper, sea bass, shrimp and squid, but never an all-scallop version. Normally, I'd prepare this as an appetizer, but a small portion of this tart concoction was exactly what my heat-exhausted body was craving.
- 4 tbsp key lime juice (regular lime juice works, too)
- 1 scallion
- 1 habanero
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt + extra for sprinkling
- 2 tsp cilantro
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 lb sea scallops (you could sub in bay scallops to save some cash)
- 1 plaintain
- Canola oil for frying
First I minced up the scallions, the garlic, the cilantro and the seeded habanero. The original recipe calls for jalepeno pepper, but based on my prior experience with ceviches, I knew I wanted more heat than that. I'm glad I made the change, as it added a much needed oomph, but here's a tip - and I want to emphasize this because it's important - FOR THE LOVE OF PAUL RUDD, PLEASE RINSE YOUR HANDS AS WELL AS YOU CAN AFTER HANDLING THE HABANERO OR WEAR GLOVES!!!! AND DON'T TOUCH YOUR FACE UNLESS YOU ARE SURE THAT ALL THE OIL FROM THE PEPPER IS OFF YOUR SKIN!!!! I'm not going to pretend that I don't know this from very painful experience. I'm not even going to pretend that I don't know this from last night (as evidenced by my Sawyer-like screams of "Son of a b%&ch! NOT AGAIN!" )...Ahem. Anyway, I added the minced ingredients to the lime juice, sugar, and 1/2 tsp salt in a plastic container and mixed well.
I then diced up the sea scallops into about 1/4" cubes. Sea scallops are the pretty, pretty princess of the seafood world - very delicate - and like princesses, they can be a little tricky to cut (as illustrated by the story of Snow White). So before starting, I threw them in the freezer for just about 5 minutes, making them easier to cube.
I submerged the scallops fully in the lime juice, covered the container, and refrigerated it for about 2 hours. You could leave it for a little longer (especially if you are using a sturdier seafood), but because scallops are so prissy, I try not to marinate them for much longer than 3 or 4 hours, otherwise they can get tough.
About 15 minutes before the ceviche was finished, I got out my plantain. Ugly, huh? I used one that was still fairly firm (you can get them very, very ripe and soft, but that didn't suit my needs for this dish).
Plantains look like bananas, but require a little extra special care. First, it's important to note that plantains (at least this variety) are not at all sweet. Second, you can't really peel them like a regular banana. You have to cut a slit lengthwise, peel-deep only; then you can pull the skin away from the flesh of the fruit. Once I got it peeled, I sliced the plantain lengthwise into 1/4" thick slices (kind of).
I heated about a 1/2" of canola oil in my frying pan over medium high heat, then fried the plantain slices until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes.
Once they were done, I blotted the extra oil on a paper towel lined dish, and sprinkled the plantains with a little sea salt while they were still hot.
I first served the ceviche with the hot plantain crisps (see header). I loved the refreshing tangy flavor of the marinade (in Peru, known as "leche de tigre," or tiger's milk) and the mellowed heat of the habanero. I was surprised that, even with all the strong flavors involved, the mild sweetness of the scallop still shone through. In fact, although I really liked the fried plantain crisp, I felt like it overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the seafood, so I fried some cut-up flour tortillas (I already had the oil out, why not?) and served the ceviche with that as well. Both versions were really good. While the acidity of the citrus and the habanero can be a little tough on sensitive stomachs, it's pretty much worth it. And if you have tortilla chips, you don't need any heat to prepare this at all, making the dish a D.C. summer all-star.