I know a bit about Ceviche from working in Santa Fe. There were quite a few places producing the raw fish turned 'cooked' without heat dish. It was usually served at the bar alongside a shot glass or two of tequila aà±ejo. There was always some variation of halibut or other white, steak fish with the requisite lemon and lime juices as well as some fiery chiles and kick of fresh cilantro or other garden herb. Then, of course, there were some variations, but nothing far from what I had seen. There might be a basil leave here or there. Perhaps some onion, but nothing outlandish. After leaving the west, I had not seen much in the way of Ceviche.
Along came The Great Ceviche Book by Douglas Rodriguez. Of New York's Chicama restaurant fame, Rodriguez brought the Ceviche revolution that he inspired some 10 years ago to the forefront of gastronomic epiphany. In The Great Ceviche Book, Rodriguez discusses his passion for the fishy dishes and how his interpretations have made their way into New York's culinary epicenter of the Union Square area.
Rodriguez is quick to define Ceviche and the distinction between it and it's cousin, escabech - the quick-cooked fish dish that probably shares the same lineage of Ceviche, but, alas, not the same thing. He rightly attempts to ensure safe Ceviche preparation by offering up the golden rules of raw fish safety. Also, the Ceviche toolbox offers up the hardware needed to prepare the recipes, like the non-reactive bowl needed to stand up to the acid-rich marinades and the razor sharp knives that prove ever useful in delicately cutting the specimens. He also delves into the requisite 5 core ingredients necessary for good Ceviche production. In addition to the fish, he gives good, useful dialog on the chiles, herbs, onions, salts and citrus requirements. Rodriguez's comprehensive listing of the "ins and outs" of Ceviche making gives the not-so-sure a little more footing to tackle the unknown of successfully using raw fish.
The recipes are numerous enough to suit most tastes including some varieties that will shake the very taste buds of the most adventurous palate. The 60+ varieties are broken up into the tiraditos and the mixtos loosely interpreted as the simple and the elaborate, respectively. Also, as if the Salmon with Mustard Oil and Scallions isn't enough, Rodriguez thoughtfully includes some enticing side dishes that do well to highlight the main dishes. Rodriguez explains the history and use of, all things, popcorn and corn nuts in traditional Ceviche cookery. To go along with that popcorn, Rodriguez's Sea Urchin Shots with Citrus Soy Sauce is a hit! It looks great around cocktail hour and has a great pan-Asian flavor. My favorite, though, is the Honduran Fire and Ice Lobster full of fantastic complimentary flavors like ginger, coconut and scallions, this preparation is fantastic with really top-notch lobster.
Douglas Rodriguez does a remarkable job at making a daunting item less daunting. In just under 160 colorful pages, Rodriguez does well to share his passion about the sometimes overlooked, often exotic, fish dish. The accurate cooking and flavoring of the dishes in Ceviche is all done, mostly, without heat and with great intensity. Rodriguez is successful in putting the Ceviche 'uprising' in print and as exciting to read about, as it is to eat.