Mexico has more than seven thousand miles of oceanfront and a wonderful coastal cuisine, especially along the Pacific. In comparison with other cultures, we add a lot of flavor to our fish dishes, so they’re rich and spicy. With so many peppers, herbs, and charred onions and garlic, you could say we season our fish too much, but it works.
At the restaurant, we take the flesh and water from coconuts and reduce them into a sauce, which we serve with ceviche in a hard shell coconut. At home, you can use canned coconut cream instead of making your own.
At the restaurant, we also shave young coconut into chips, which we dry over the comal for a crunchy garnish, and combine rock salt with red beets to add a beautiful pink color, then everything is set atop seaweed for serving.
For the coconut cream
1 young coconut
1 mature coconut
Coconut water, as needed
Granulated sugar, to taste
For the ceviche
1 (3-ounce / 85-g) piece pineapple
1 large orange
3/4 pound (340 g) skinless red snapper fillet, cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon finely diced fresh habañero chile, seeded first if desired
3/4 cup (45 g) large unsweetened toasted coconut flakes
1/4 cup (8 g) fresh cilantro leaves or sprouts
1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
For the coconut cream
Using the bottom edge of a large knife, crack open the young coconut where the top naturally breaks from the shell. Pour the coconut water into a liquid measuring cup and set aside. Using a spoon, scrape the white flesh away from the coconut shell and remove any brown skin. Measure the amount of flesh then transfer to a medium saucepan.
To open the mature coconut, use a paring knife to puncture the coconut at the eyes. Pour the coconut water into the measuring cup with the coconut water from the young coconut. Using the dull side of a large knife, strike the coconut in several places at the circumference until the coconut splits in half. Pry the flesh away from the shell and remove any brown skin. Measure the amount of flesh then add 1/2 to the saucepan with the young coconut flesh, reserving the rest for another use.
Based on the amount of coconut flesh you measured, add an equal amount of coconut water, using the coconut water from the young and mature coconuts and adding purchased coconut water as needed. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat then reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool to warm.
Pour the coconut flesh and liquid into a blender and purée. Add sugar to taste. Transfer to a container and let cool completely before using.
For the ceviche
Light a grill or preheat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Grill the pineapple, turning once, for 2 to 3 minutes per side or until grill marks appear. Let cool then chop into bite-size pieces.
Cut the orange peel and rind from the orange then use a small sharp knife to cut in between the membranes to release the orange segments into a small bowl.
In a bowl, cover the fish with the lime juice and let stand 10 minutes. Drain the fish, season to taste with salt, and mix well. Add 1 cup (240 ml) of the coconut cream, along with the grilled pineapple, orange segments, and habañero, and mix well to com- bine. Transfer to a platter or bowls, garnish with the coconut flakes and cilantro, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and serve.
More about A Place at the Table: The book is produced in collaboration with the Vilcek Foundation, which is dedicated to raising awareness of immigrant contributions in America and fostering appreciation of the arts and sciences. The publication of the book follows the Vilcek Foundation's prestigious 2019 chef awards this spring, which only happen every 5 years. The winner of the Vilcek Prize in Culinary Arts this year was just announced and it was Marcus Samuelsson.
Recipe excerpted from A Place at the Table: New American Recipes from the Nation's Top Foreign-Born Chefs (Prestel, Sept 24, 2019, $40/hardcover) by Gabrielle Langholtz, Rick Kinsel.
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