Ceviche de Aguja with Ginger and Mezcal
The earthy, smoky flavor of the mezcal sets up both the sharpness of the citrus in the marinade and the fattiness of the avocado in this dish from Eric Werner and Mya Henry’s cookbook Hartwood, which tells the story of their restaurant in Tulum, Mexico. They suggest, “When shopping for marlin, look for a lean fillet with no fatty layers between the muscle—that fat is too chewy for a ceviche. If you can’t find lean marlin, ask for lean swordfish. If the only marlin (or swordfish) at the fish market is fatty, then don’t make ceviche: those cuts are best roasted in the oven.” Hoja santa, also known as Mexican pepper leaf, has a flavor reminiscent of eucalyptus, mint, tarragon and black pepper. In the Yucatán they use the large, heart-shaped leaves to wrap fish, to flavor green moles and to make a liquor called verdin, but you can omit it if you like.
For the pickled onions:
- 1 white onion, thinly sliced using a mandoline or a sharp knife
- 1 cup (8 fl. oz./250 ml) white vinegar
- 1 Tbs. sugar
- 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
For the ginger mezcal agua:
- 1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh ginger
- 1/2 cup (4 fl. oz./125 ml) fresh lime juice (from 5 to 6 limes)
- 1 cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
- 2 Tbs. mezcal
- 1/2 tsp. honey
- 1 serrano chile, coarsely chopped
- 1/3 cup (1/3 oz./10 g) dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea
- Kosher salt
For the ceviche:
- 1 lb. (500 g) marlin fillets
- 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
- 4 radishes, julienned
- 1 serrano chile, thinly sliced
- 1/3 cup finely diced seeded cucumber
- 1/2 cup hoja santa leaves, cut into 1/2-inch (12-mm) squares (optional)
- 1 Haas avocado, halved, pitted, peeled and cubed
- 1/2 tsp. dried chamomile or organic chamomile tea for garnish
- Radish sprouts for garnish (optional)
- Sea salt for garnish
To make the pickled onions, in a 1-pint (500-ml) jar, combine the onion, vinegar, sugar and salt and shake to combine. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 week before using, shaking the jar occasionally to combine.
To make the ginger mezcal agua, in blender, combine the ginger, lime juice, cucumber, mezcal, honey, chile and chamomile and blend on high speed until well blended, about 30 seconds. Pass through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and season with salt to taste.
To make the ceviche, holding your knife at a 45-degree angle, thinly slice the marlin across the grain into pieces about 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Make sure that you are slicing in one fluid movement—it’s like slicing through an apple, not sawing though a loaf of bread. Be mindful that the grain might change as you move along the fish, so be sure to adjust the angle of your cut accordingly. Put the marlin in a bowl, add the ginger mezcal agua and salt, and gently stir to combine. Add 1/3 cup of the pickled onions, saving the rest for another use. Add the radishes, chile, cucumber and hoja santa leaves and mix gently. Let stand for 1 to 2 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, divide the ceviche among individual serving bowls. Spoon about 2 Tbs. of the ginger mezcal agua over each serving. Garnish with the avocado, chamomile, radish sprouts and sea salt. Serves 4 to 6.
Excerpted from Hartwood by Eric Werner and Mya Henry (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015.