Yes! You, Too, Can Easily Make Ceviche

I recently posted a kind of grainy Instagram of some ceviche I fixed up the other day to my facebook profile, and the thing garnered more “likes” at a swifter velocity than just about any other status update I’ve dropped all year. A couple people asked for a recipe, which I basically wing every time I make this stuff. And that made me realize that perhaps there are a number of folks out there who do not know the simple, liberating truth:

Yes! You, too, can easily make ceviche. Here’s one method that works for me–try at your own risk / reward. First, acquire the following if you want to feed one of me or else two-to-three normal people:

  • 6 limes
  • 2 lemons
  • 4 tilapia fillets
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 large tomatoe
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 2 jalapenos
  • 2 avocados
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Next, do this:

  1. Squeeze all the juice out of the limes and lemons and place it in a bowl or casserole dish or something–basically, the flatter bottom’d the better if you want the ceviche it to cure fast. Optional: Throw the spent husks of citrus at those haters who think you can’t cook and may even be right until now.
  2. Dice the fillets so each little fish cube is about the same size–this way, they will all “cook” at the same rate. Put all of them in the bowl or dish or whatever and spread them out so the juice is covering at least 50% of every cube. (Better if all of them are completely submerged.)
  3. Dice all the other vegetables EXCEPT FOR THE AVOCADOS and put them on top of the lemon/lime juice submerged fish. It doesn’t matter quite so much if the vegetables are covered by the juice since they don’t need to “cook.” Trick for jalapenos: slice them in half first and run them under water while you press out the seeds; this will keep any burning acid from flying in your eyeballs when you dice them, as tragically happened to my poor friend, Sid Duffour, the other day.
  4. Throw some salt and pepper on top of everything, cover the top of the bowl / dish, and stick it in the refrigerator for 15 minutes. How much salt and pepper, you ask? I don’t know man–whatever works for you. Make some decisions! When in doubt, use less seasoning since you can always put more in there when you eat the stuff whereas nanotechnology or magic is necessary to take the seasoning out if you get a little overzealous.
  5. Stir everything up and stick it back in the refrigerator for 15 minutes.
  6. At this point, the acid in the lime/lemon juice should have chemically “cooked” the fish. You’ll know if this happened because the fish will turn whitish, just as if you had actually cooked it with fire. If you’re scared of eating raw fish, just let it sit in the refrigerator for another 15+ minutes. Also, you might want to steer clear of sushi…
  7. When you’re ready to consume this delicious amalgam, dice your avocados and mix them in with everything else. If you stick the avocados in at the beginning, they tend to gradually melt away into the ceviche. Which is kinda tasty but not as much as when they persist among the mixture as nice little cubes. If you don’t know how to easily pit an avocado, this guy’s method works; after you’ve pitted the avocado, slice it into cubes while it’s still in the skin and then scoop it out with a spoon–people will think you’re a genius when the truth is that you’re well-read.
We used to call these "the good chips" because everything else was sub-par by comparison.

We used to call these “the good chips” because everything else was sub-par by comparison.

My favorite way to eat this is straight out of the bowl with El Ranchero tortilla chips. And if you think that’s weirdly specific for an otherwise lackadaisical recipe, you clearly need to get some of those chips, rated by Gaper’s Block Media as “Chicago’s Best” over six years ago. Also, you can swap other seafood in for some of the tilapia if you want, e.g. 2 tilapia fillets + 1 handful of peeled shrimp + 1 handful of shelled scallops ≈ biomass of 4 tilapia fillets. Just let the whole mixture sit for a total of, say, 45-60 minutes with stirring every 15 minutes or so to be sure that everything is thoroughly “cooked” by the lemon/lime juice since you’ll be working with different types of protein that cures at different rates. I personally like to stick with tilapia because it’s cheap and delicious and super easy to prep, but ymmv. Finally, you spruce this up a few more notches by throwing some cilantro in there, going halfsies on serrano peppers in place of the jalapenos, and so forth. Experiment!

Enjoy with a tamarind Jarritos, a couple tracks from Tipica 73 in the air, and the woman you love in your arms. Or the man or dog or cat, but not a fish because that’s just cruel.