Having grown up on the shores of the Chesapeake Bay, I have always been drawn to the water. Maybe it's in my blood. My great-grandfather was an Irish ship's carpenter who made his way from the Old Sod to Newfoundland, and later sailed to the Chesapeake, where he established our clan.
I opened Gertrude's restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1998 and in the same year published my first cookbook, "Chesapeake Bay Cooking." Since then, I have had the opportunity to travel and cook with many communities around this vast country. And while each place has special qualities, it is no surprise that I am particularly drawn to the spots situated in coastal areas -- perhaps because of my upbringing, or simply for the fact that most of civilization's great cultural, spiritual, economic and gastronomic centers have been on the water.
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On my travels, I've been fortunate enough to meet some extraordinary cooks and storytellers. Take my friend Cesar Calderon, for example: He and I met years ago in Northern California, where he was a well-known seafood chef. He has always been rooted in Pacific seafood cooking, only his roots are from farther south -- in Mexico. I have had the pleasure of sampling hundreds of his seafood creations, and his Acapulco-style ceviche, featured here, is one of my favorites.
Ceviche (also spelled "cebiche" and "seviche") is normally made from a flatfish such as flounder or halibut, but it also works nicely with red snapper. People often refer to it as a "raw fish" dish, but actually, the acid in the citrus "cooks" the fish.
This particular recipe incorporates a spicy Salsa Fresca. To serve, you can mound the ceviche into cocktail glasses (martini glasses work well) and top with additional salsa. Or, Cesar says an alternative method of serving would be to place the finished ceviche in an attractive bowl, topping it with the salsa and garnishing it with avocado and cilantro. Tortilla chips go great on the side, allowing guests to scoop up the fish with the chips -- and adding a gratifying crunch.
Copyright 2004 by John Shields. From the book "Coastal Cooking With John Shields," published by Broadway Books, a division of Random House Inc. Reprinted with permission.
1 pound flounder, sole or halibut fillet
Juice of 6 to 8 large limes (about 1 1/2 cups)
Salsa Fresca (recipe follows)
1 medium avocado, peeled and sliced, for garnish
Whole sprigs of cilantro for garnish
Cut the fillets into 3/4-inch pieces and toss with lime juice in a shallow mixing bowl. Cover and refrigerate, letting the fish "cook" in the lime juice, for at least 6 to 8 hours, or overnight. Stir from time to time.
About one hour before serving, add two-thirds of the Salsa Fresca to the fish and stir to combine. Return to the refrigerator for at least one hour, as the mixture should be cold when served.