You ever have one of those days where everything you were doing just did not turn out right? Well, Test Kitchen #2, in many ways, turned into one of those days. It all started with the Epic 2011 Halloween Nor’easter. For those of you who do not have the pleasure of living in New England in the winter, a Nor’easter is a brutal type of winter snowstorm. This storm knocked out power to more than 160,000 in Maine, including my home. Then on Monday morning, on my way to work, a miracle occurred; Power had also been knocked out to the Rochester Electronics facilities in Newburyport, Massachusetts. Test Kitchen Sunday suddenly became Test Kitchen Monday!
My agenda for Test Kitchen #2 was as follows:
- Test out a Oaxacan inspired ceviche based on an original recipe from Rick Bayless, but adding my own twist by substituting pilloncillo for chocolate Abuelita (a sweetened Mexican chocolate).
- Test out a Yucatan inspired ceviche with Coconut, Mint, and Mango.
- Recreate the Veracruz version of ceviche.
- Plate all three together in a “tour” of ceviche. That is have about 4 ounces of ceviche from three different regions in Mexico.
- Of course, take pictures and document my day.
So early Monday morning (around 11:00AM) I headed off to obtain my supplies. I went out to Golden Harvest once again. I then headed to Taylor Lobster to get my fresh lobsters. This time, I wanted to give you a little bit more about my friendly nieghborhood fish monger, so I took some photos inside the store. Those pictures will be posted on the Facebook page for this food blog www.facebook.com/delgrossofoodblog. So having my fresh produce, and my fresh lobsters, I headed home to create!
I prepared my lobsters once again by placing them in the freezer for about 20 minutes to put them to “sleep” while I boiled my pot of salted water. I added the aromatics to the pot, and covered it. Once the pot came to a boil, I placed three lobsters in the pot, turned off the heat, and set the timer for 8 minutes. Once the 8 minutes were up, I took out each lobster and placed in an ice bath for 2 minutes or so to: 1. To immediately stop the cooking and 2. To cool the lobsters faster so I could remove the meat. Once the lobsters were cool, I took the claws and the tails and removed the meat. The three lobsters yielded about 12 ounces of lobster meat (about 4 ounces each). I chopped up the lobster meat and placed it in a covered glass container in the refrigerator while I prepared the marinades.
To cut to the chase, the Oaxacan ceviche was a total disaster. The combination of the grapefruit juice, chocolate, and chile pasilla just did not work at all. The bittersweet flavor of the chocolate, together with the tart acidic grapefruit juice did not balance well with the chile pasilla. I did not have much lobster to test out the original recipe so I moved on to the Yucatan ceviche. This was not nearly such a disaster, the flavors balanced well, but it still needed something, like cilantro. The problem with that was I was already featuring cilantro in another ceviche and did not want to repeat ingredients.
After one complete failure, and the other miss with the Yucatan ceviche, my trio was suddenly becoming a solo act. I instantly thought of an episode of “Iron Chef” that I once watched. One of the challengers put up a trio of some dish for judging (I do not remember what the “secret ingredient” was). It was quite ambitious and it looked beautiful. Unfortunately, one of the trio fell short, so the judges blasted the entire dish. One of the judges mentioned that when you present a trio, they compete against each other rather than compete against the other chef’s single plate. When presenting a trio, all three better be spot on or the whole dish risks judgment on each individual serving. Having that thought clearly in my mind, I switched gears and focused on my original dish.
So the safe bet was to make the Lobster Ceviche Veracruz in a chilled avocado soup (Ceviche de Langosta Veracruzano en sopa fria de aquacate). So I took another 4 ounces of the lobster meat and marinated it for 30 minutes in the juice of 2 limes, 1 lemon, and 1 orange. While this was marinating, I minced my red onion, tomato, chile serrano, cilantro. After 30 minutes, I drained the citrus well, then I mixed in the rest of the ingredients.
For the avocado soup, I chopped up ½ of a yellow onion and sautéed the onion in 1 tablespoon of corn oil and 1 tablespoon of butter until the onion became translucent and began to darken slightly on the edges. I then added about ¼ cup of cilantro. I let the cilantro cook until it just began to wilt, then I placed the entire contents of the pan into a blender with 6 cups of warm chicken stock (make sure the fat has been completely been separated from the stock!). At this point, cut up and scoop out the flesh from 3 Haas avocados and put in the blender. Then carefully pulse the blender to puree setting and puree until smooth. To ensure that your avocado soup does not oxidize and turn from its delicious green to a ugly brown color, squeeze in the juice from 1 lime. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to cool completely.
Once the soup was chilled, I took a shallow bowl, took out my food mold, and placed it in the center of the bowl. I scooped the ceviche into the food mold and filled it to the top. I then poured the avocado soup around the ceviche with the mold still in place. Once I had about ½ inch or so of soup in the bowl, I carefully removed the mold, then I placed a cilantro leaf and a tortilla chip in the ceviche and the dish was ready to serve! Although I failed to accomplish my objectives, I did end up with a result. A beautiful, professional dish to serve at my MasterChef audition on Saturday. There are a few adjustments that I need to make, adding a pinch more salt, using the juice of only 1 lime, and adding a bit more chile to give it some kick to contrast the cool, refreshing avocado soup, but overall it was a delicious dish!
Ceviche de Langosta Veracruzano
- 8 to 10 ounces of lobster meat (partially cooked. 2 one and a quarter pound lobsters will yield approx. 8 ounces)
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lime juice
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice(Valencia or Navel)
- ¼ red onion, diced
- 1 Chile Serrano, seeded and membranes removed, diced
- ½ cup of fresh cilantro, loosely packed, chopped fine
- Pinch of salt to taste (al gusto)
- Bring 1 large stockpot filled with water, 2 tablespoons salt, 2 bay leaves, and 4 sprigs of thyme to a boil.
- Once the water boils, add up to two lobsters at a time, turn off heat and cover. Blanche lobsters for about 6-8 minutes.
- After 6-8 minutes, remove the lobsters and quickly shock in an ice bath to stop the cooking. After a few minutes in the ice-cold water, remove them from the ice bath.
- Go about removing the meat from the lobster.
- Once you have removed the meat from the tails and the claws, you can press out the leg meat. Chop the lobster meat into bit size pieces.
- Combine the citrus in a non-reactive bowl (preferably glass or stainless) with the lobster and place covered in a refrigerator for about 30 – 45 minutes.
- While the lobster “cooks” in the citrus, prepare and combine all the other ingredients in bowl.
- Once the lobster has soaked for no more than 45 minutes, take it from the refrigerator and mix with the other ingredients.
- Plate immediately and serve with a slice of avocado, some saltine crackers, tortilla chips, or tostadas.
Chilled Avocado Soup
- ½ of a yellow onion, diced
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro, stems removed
- 1 tablespoon of corn oil
- 1 tablespoon of unsalted butter
- 3 Haas Avocados
- 6 cups of chicken stock
- 1 lime
- Salt (al Gusto)
- Chop the onion and place in a hot sauté pan with the corn oil and the melted butter. Cook until the onion becomes translucent and just begins to brown on the edges.
- Add the cilantro and cook until the cilantro wilts.
- Put the onions and cilantro into a blender with 6 cups of chicken stock.
- Scoop out the flesh of 3 avocados and place into the blender.
- Carefully puree to a smooth consistency and place in a covered glass container or bowl in the refrigerator. Once it is chilled, it is ready to serve.