In tonight’s post, we probe the liminal space between “raw” and “cooked” and explore how the resulting tension manifests in the eater’s experience of flesh-as-food.
In other words:
- I made ceviche.
- I have recently been viewing modern art.
Before getting into the nitty gritty, I must state that I only realized it was Cinco de Mayo AFTER I made the ceviche, and this dish is in no way an attempt to observe that most Corona- and guacamole-fueled of holidays. I mean, I appreciate the commemoration of the day Mexico finally banished the last of the chupacabras from the Yucatan peninsula as much as the next gal – yay, Mexico! – but, you know, not my country.*
*Oh, Like YOU know what Cinco de Mayo is really about. Go drink your $3 frozen strawberry margarita and give me a goddamn break.
I’d been wondering if I could use ceviche as the gateway preparation that would eventually endear me to sushi. I have a lot of texture issues when it comes to food, and sushi is high on the list of mouthfeels that squick me out. But everyone LOVES the fucking sushi SO MUCH and I’m getting tired of being the toolbox who always gets the tempura shrimp; the only other people who get tempura shrimp at sushi restaurants are toddlers, and in New York, even most of THEM think that’s lame.
I do, however, love a good scallop, and a barely cooked scallop at that, so I decided to try a tropical-esque, spicy ceviche with enough color and flavor to get me over the rawness hump.*
*“Rawness Hump” is the name of the new comedy special I’m filming as part of an Andrew Dice Clay retrospective.**
***It’s actually called “Fuck You, You Fucking Fuckers: Dice n’ Easy.”
While diced scallops – fresh dry scallops only, please – marinated in a combo of lemon, lime and orange juice, I diced up some red bell pepper, jalapeño, papaya and cilantro. I also mixed up a dressing of more citrus, a little fish sauce, sugar and salt in which to toss everything.
The scallops spent about an hour sitting in their acid bath and as you can see, the post-acidulation scallops look pretty much the same as the pre-acidulation scallops. Don’t get me wrong, I know that soaking seafood in acid doesn’t actually cook anything. Still, I was hoping for more of a cosmetic change to make the first bite easier by fooling my brain into thinking it was eating something cooked.
I drained the scallops and tossed them with the dressing and accouterments, then scooped some into a cocktail coupe; you eat with your eyes first, dontcha know. It’s pretty, n’est-ce pas? I wonder who I have to talk to to have it officially designated as “art”? Sure, it would eventually start to reek as it sat on display, but that would just add another layer of depth as it forced the viewer to ponder his or her own mortality and relationship to the natural world via an intimate encounter with crustacean decay.
Plus, if MoMA considera a bowl full of mussel shells to be art worthy of display, THIS TOTALLY COUNTS. Call me, Maja Oeri and Hans Bodenmann! I have a chicken carcass and a pile of cucumber peelings I think you’d find really provocative, and I’m willing to offer it to you at a deeply discounted price!*
*In all seriousness, some of the MoMA is mindblowing – the Cindy Sherman exhibit is pretty killer, and you can’t go wrong with the Diego Rivera gallery – but parts of it make me want to punch an art student in the balls. Maybe I’m a philistine, but some of the installations and what they ask me to consider produce nothing more than irritation, then anger, then boredom. I’m looking at you, Lawrence Weiner and your “Wall Pitted by a Single Air Rifle Shot.”
Anyway, ceviche. It looked lovely. It smelled good. It tasted…like spicy raw scallops, and as usual, I couldn’t get past the texture thing. Which was a damn shame, because the freshness, heat, tang and gentle sweetness were delightful and well-balanced; not to mention it was dinnertime and I was really fricking hungry.
Brian has no such qualms about raw protein and loves all raw seafood, so he happily scarfed down the entire bowl while I had a gouda and cracker appetizer followed by a cereal entree.
If you’ll excuse me, I have to go examine the intimate relationship between evacuation, small spaces and the way we communicate through a series of universally agreed-upon symbols that may nevertheless be re-ordered in ways that produce confusion and division that belie our innate interconnectedness, by which I mean play Boggle on my iPhone while taking a shit.
Spicy Scallop Ceviche
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. fresh orange juice
8 oz. fresh, dry sea scallops
1 tsp. fish sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
pinch of salt
1/4 c. diced red bell pepper
1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/4 c. peeled and diced ripe papaya
3 tbsp. finely chopped cilantro
In a medium bowl, mix two tablespoons each of lime, lemon and orange juice together. Cut the scallops into a half-inch dice and add to the juice. The juice should cover the scallops. Cover in plastic wrap and stash in the fridge for one hour.
Take the scallops out of the fridge and drain off all the juice. In a small bowl, mix the remaining citrus juices, fish sauce, sugar and salt together; stir briefly to dissolve the sugar.
Pour the dressing over the scallops and toss in the peppers, papaya and cilantro. Serve immediately.